Distracted driving is the cause of a significant portion of car accident injuries and fatalities every year. As technology advances, it often seems that there are only more gadgets and features to distract drivers, but augmented reality windshields could change all that.
While augmented reality windshields are still a ways from being introduced to the masses, the technology is important to understand, as it could impact laws and legal claims in the future. Let’s take a look at just what an augmented reality windshield is, the benefits and disadvantages, and what legal issues could pop up in the future.
What Is an Augmented Reality Windshield?
At the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show, Panasonic unveiled its new augmented reality windshield, referred to as “artificial intelligence-enhanced head-up display,” that senses whether the driver is speeding, swerving, or approaching a hazard like a bicyclist, motorcyclist, or inanimate object. The sensors also sense whether the driver is aware that they are endangering others. If not, a visual warning is projected directly onto the windshield where the driver should be looking, along with a vibration or an auditory alert.
The idea of overlaying a windshield with specs and safety information isn’t new. In fact, auto manufacturers have been experimenting with the idea since 1988. However, U.S. automakers have struggled with how to market the technologies. In the past, similar technology has been sold as expensive add-on safety features available on only the most high-end cars.
Panasonic is not the only company looking to invent an augmented reality windshield. GM has been experimenting with making interactive windows for almost a decade. Now, they are one of the first companies ready to launch an augmented reality window system. The windshield would display driver-related info like speed, entertainment, navigation, and communication with that system.
Pros and Cons of Automated Driving Technology
According to Panasonic, their system’s ultra-advanced 3D radar cameras take in more of the roadway than its competitors. This means it can presumably sense things that human drivers cannot see or frequently miss, like a person walking across the road at night or a child darting behind an SUV’s blind spot. The cameras will also be watching the driver to adjust the alerts based on their eye position.
Unlike non-contextual alerts in today’s cars, alerts from augmented reality windshields will be able to adjust to the situation. If, for example, a driver is paying more attention to their phone and a pedestrian runs into the street, the alert system could bleat a loud warning and flash something across the windshield to alert them to stop. But, if a driver is giving the road their undivided attention and something like that happens, the warning would be gentler. This idea of adjusting is something designers hope will encourage drivers to use advanced features and acknowledge the life-saving alerts.
One potential issue with automated driving technology is that people might ignore warnings because they are used to warnings cars give today. Andrew Poliak, chief technology officer to Panasonic, said, “My wife and I have a backup camera on our car, and it screams at us pretty much every time we try to get out of the garage. A lot of drivers are so inundated with all these non-contextual warnings from their ‘smart’ vehicles – all these bells and chimes and beeps – that they don’t always really hear them. … We need to make sure we build systems that people do not turn off.”
Legal Issues Surrounding Augmented Reality Windshields
In an ideal world, flawless automated driving technology with similarly flawless roadway detection systems would make augmented reality windshields obsolete. If augmented reality windshields become popular, laws may need to change, and accident victims could have a more difficult time seeking compensation for losses.
While it should ultimately come down to the opposing driver’s actions at the time of the accident, there could be an issue with determining fault if a design flaw gave the driver with the augmented reality windshield incorrect information.
According to experts, human drivers are generally still better at making nuanced decisions about how to safely drive a vehicle in bad weather, chaotic environments, or other situations than autonomous vehicles. As time passes and technology continues to advance, there is the chance self-driving cars could become safer. For drivers who never want to use an augmented windshield, there are other technologies, both effective and cheap, that can make pedestrians more visible to drivers—this includes what we’re already used to watching out for, like sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes.
Product Liability and Packaging Issues