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Continental Develops a ‘Virtual A-Pillar' to Eliminate Blind Spots for Drivers

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【Summary】Auto part supplier Continental has developed what it calls, a ‘Virtual A Pillar', which uses cameras to show what is normally concealed by a vehicle’s A-pillar. The system removes these forward blind spots, and gives drivers a better view of their surroundings.

Eric Walz    Oct 25, 2018 11:56 AM PT
Continental Develops a ‘Virtual A-Pillar' to Eliminate Blind Spots for Drivers
author: Eric Walz   

With all of the new technology available in today's cars to assist drivers, drivers still complain about blind spots, rear windows that are too small, and side view mirrors that don't offer a wide enough view. Today, drivers are used to compensating for lack of forward vision by adjusting their position while driving, but that's not always enough to get a better view of the road.

Auto part supplier Continental is helping to address this problem and has developed a new technology to help drivers see through a vehicle's A pillars, which run down the right and left sides of the front windshield. These A-pillars have been identified as visual obstructions for drivers.

The company has developed what it calls, a ‘Virtual A Pillar, which uses cameras to show what is normally concealed by a vehicle's A-pillar. The system removes these forward blind spots, and gives drivers a better view of their surroundings.

"Increasing the safety of all road users, from drivers to pedestrians, is the motivating force behind innovative Continental technologies like the Virtual A-Pillar," said Dr. Karsten Michels, head of Systems & Technology in the Interior division at Continental. "By pairing and implementing advanced technology in the vehicle, Continental has created a solution that eliminates the forward blind spots of the A-pillars, helping to reduce a critical safety hazard experienced by so many road users."

How it Works

Continental's system uses flexible OLED displays mounted on the interior of the A-pillar, combined with advanced head tracking, which is used to track the driver's head position to provide a better view when combined with the exterior live image.

The Continental Virtual A-Pillar tracks these movements using an interior camera mounted just above the steering wheel. At the same time, Continental's SurroundView camera, mounted on the vehicle's exterior, feeds a live video of the vehicle's external environment to the OLED displays embedded in the A-pillars.

By tracking the driver's head movements paired with the exterior live image, the Virtual A-Pillar offers a dynamic perspective for the driver, giving the driver an experience more like looking through an extended "window" rather than a display showing a live video feed.

"This new technology allows the driver to see pedestrians and other vehicles approaching from the left and right, which would have otherwise been blocked by the A-pillar," Michels added.

With the advancements of camera and display technology, Continental's Virtual A-Pillar allows the driver to maintain a direct line of sight when turning left or right, providing additional safety for cyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.

The front support pillars, which anchor the windshield and the beginning foundation of the vehicle's roof, are a necessary structural support element of a vehicle's body and are designed to support the weight of the vehicle is case of a rollover.

Over the years as cars designs evolved, A-pillars have widened to improve rollover safety and meet more rigorous federal crash protection and rollover standards. This trend poses an increased hazard to pedestrians or cyclists, which can easily be concealed from the driver's view by the A-pillar, which led to continental developing the technology.

The width of the A-pillar varies between models. Depending on the pillar's width, a linear distance of over 36 inches can end up being obstructed at just 12 feet from the pillar, according to Continental. When combined with both sides, a six foot section of a crowded intersection intersection might be obscured. This hidden area increases substantially as the distance from the vehicle grows, making the design of the A-pillar a challenge for automakers looking to increase the driver's forward view.

Other automakers are developing similar technology to increase safety. Jaguar Land Rover announced a similar system using cameras called the Virtual Urban Windscreen in 2014. Lexus, the luxury division of Toyota, recently announced a ‘digital side mirror' system, which replaces the glass sideview mirrors with tiny cameras connected to a interior monitor, offering driver's a much better view around the vehicle.

Continental did not say if its new technology will be available to automakers, right now it's just a proof of concept. But the system looks to be a promising safety enhancement for the automotive industry.

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