Navigation images sharper than your TV among tech improvements coming to vehicles
- Augmented reality navigation will use graphics and artificial intelligence to improve driving directions.
- Road noise cancellation promises to make cabins quieter and more pleasant in the same way noise-cancelling headphones reduce the discomfort of airline travel.
Augmented reality (AR) lays computer graphics over video of the real world. The goal is to make it easier to find the right turn, know the addresses of buildings you drive past, drop a big red map pin on top of your destination and more.
Mercedes-Benz already has vehicles with AR nav on the road. I tested the system in a GLS SUV running errands on a recent snowy evening.
By the end of the year the Genesis GV80 and Cadillac Escalade will offer other approaches to the feature.
Road noise cancellation will debut on the GV80. It’ll be teamed with other advanced electronics including engine noise cancellation and augmentation of desirable sounds like the engine to create what Genesis says will be a uniquely serene cabin.
Nav images sharper than your high-def TV
Augmented reality navigation systems combine the animated map views with video from forward-facing cameras. The feature is in its infancy, so we’ll see varying approaches while automakers figure out the best way to display the video, directional arrows, etc.
Mercedes’ system shows the video on the touch screen in the middle of the dashboard. It provides much more detailed information than current nav systems. The system projected a blue arrow on the road to indicate “continue straight,” numbers hovering along the roadside for addresses and floating blue arrows with street names directly over each turn. The arrows start off small in the distance and grow larger as the turn approaches.
It’s an intuitive system that requires little explanation or practice, but I found the screen’s location, out of my line of sight in the middle of the vehicle, less than ideal.
More features, artificial intelligence coming
Floating arrows and animated map pins are just the beginning, said Chen-Ping Yu, CEO of Phiar Technologies, a Redwood City, California, company that’s testing AR nav on iPhones ahead of a planned release on the App Store midyear. Phiar is working with multiple automakers and suppliers on an AR system that incorporates artificial intelligence to offer features like pedestrian and oncoming-vehicle detection.
“We’re working to add warnings for moving objects, pedestrians and lane departure,” “We expect to have the system available on dash cams next.”
Phiar expects to be able to project its AR onto the center screen, the instrument panel or a head-up display directly in front of the driver on the windshield.
Putting the display in the line of sight increases safety benefits because the driver will use the system more and immediately see alerts for oncoming vehicles, people, maybe stop signs.
“What you see is what’s in front of you,” Yu said. “The driver will understand it at a glance.
“We can get the product into customer hands faster with smartphones and showcase its capabilities for automotive use.”
Silencing road noise
Vehicles have used noise cancellation to reduce engine noise and vibration for years, but shutting out road noise — the sound of tires on pavement, wheels dropping into potholes, springs absorbing bumps and more — is harder, said Rajus Augustine, director of car audio programs at supplier Harman, which makes the system coming on the GV80.
Noise cancellation analyzes noise and generates sound waves that are perfectly out of sync to neutralize them. Harman’s system has six milliseconds to analyze and cancel a sound between the road impact that creates the noise and when the passengers would hear it. It does not screen out wind noise, or environmental sounds like sirens.
Harman developed the system with Hyundai Motor, which owns Genesis. It uses sensors on the chassis and suspension and microphones near the occupants’ ears. The exterior sensors are the only new parts. Otherwise, the system uses components already present to cancel engine vibration, enhance pleasant engine sounds and provide audio.
“We’ll launch the system with another automaker this year,” Augustine said.
“Imagine a bee buzzing in the car. It’s always there, so you cease to notice it, even though the sound is present.
“But the moment the bee flies out, it’s like ‘What just happened?’
“It’s about creating an environment that’s comforting, where you can listen to music and talk on the phone or with passengers.”
[Photo:] Augmented reality lays computer graphics over video of the real world, making it easier to find the right turn, know addresses and more. MARK PHELAN, DETROIT FREE PRESS AUTO CRITIC