Yes, you did read the title correctly. And, before you start thinking Land Rover has hired a new chap called Derren Brown, or that its engineers have come up with a see-through replacement for aluminium, we should tell you that the Land Rover Discovery Vision Concept’s ‘transparent bonnet’ is in fact possible thanks to augmented reality.
You’ve probably heard about this tech, it has been around for some time, but augmented reality is just starting to really take off. It involves taking your real environment and supplementing it with a computer-generated sensory input, which could include graphics, video, sound or text. A great example is Google Glass, which looks like a pair of glasses and places many of a smartphone’s functions right in your peripheral vision. As processors and cameras become smaller and cheaper, augmented reality (which can require some serious processing power) becomes more viable.
So, why does Land Rover think its customers should be interested? Well, Land Rover is serious about off-roading, and if you’ve ever been lucky enough to attend an off-road course, you’ll know that you sometimes need a spotter outside the car. Spotters are your extra set of eyes through tricky tight sections, where misplacing a front wheel by a couple of inches could mean whacking a rock or even falling off a log bridge. At one such event, the bonnet of the Range Rover Sport we were driving rose so high in the air, all we could see was the tip of our spotter’s index finger, beckoning us to continue up the near-vertical ramp.
That’s all very well and good, but in reality, we can’t all have the motoring equivalent of Bear Grylls with us, ready to hop out at a moment’s notice. If the Discovery Vision Concept, shown off at this year’s New York motor show, becomes a reality, we won’t have to. It uses cameras located in the grille to capture data and feed it to a head-up display, “creating a ‘see-through’ view of the terrain through the bonnet and engine bay, breaking new ground in visual driver assistance.”
If you’re thinking that you can count the times you’ve ventured off-road on one hand, the ‘transparent bonnet’ can still help you tackle your urban commute and the tightest car parking space, according to Dr Wolfgang Epple, Director of Research and Technology for Jaguar Land Rover. That’s Jaguar Land Rover, so yes, it’s only a matter of time before we could see augmented reality in the Jaguar range, too.
So, what do we think ‘transparent bonnet’ technology will do for Jaguar? Well, in an F-Type sports car, it could help you hone your track driving by allowing you to see your front wheels clip each apex (or miss it) and even display a suggested driving line on your favourite race track, indicating when best to corner, brake and accelerate. In an XJ, it could help chauffeurs avoid pot holes, and in an XF, the same basic technology could help you keep focussed on long motorway slogs by keeping you alert with stimulating sounds and graphics.