The sun visor on cars has been in use for more than 100 years and was first put in place in 1924 to serve as a “glare shield” on the exterior of the Ford Model T. Yet despite some modest improvements–lighted vanity mirrors perhaps? An ugly, block-of-view slab that’s frequently as irritating as it is functional.
Bosch is finally coming up with a better plan A computer-generated LCD (LCD) display that connects with a camera that monitors the driver to block the sun from your eyes while allowing for an outside view. The German manufacturer debuted the Bosch Virtual Visor at the recent CES event in Las Vegas.
The Virtual Visor project began when Ryan Todd, a Bosch engineer from suburban Detroit, began thinking about what television he wanted to buy for his sun-splashed daily commute. Eastbound in the mornings and Westbound each afternoon. According to his fellow engineer and project engineer Jason Zink, Todd considered that, while OLEDs create light, OLED produces the light “an LCD blocks the light within every pixel. He thought to himself, “Wow, I would love it if I could block just this area of the sun’s rays, similar to how LCDs block light.'”
Todd presented the idea the next day at an innovation meeting. Three years later, Bosch is showing a prototype working to car manufacturers, both commercial and passenger vehicles, and hopes the technology will be available to the market in the next couple of years.
The visor connects the honeycomb pattern of a simple display reinforced by polycarbonate. It also has a driver-facing RGB camera and an electronic control unit (ECU) that runs an algorithm and an AI program.
The camera can detect a driver’s face — eyes, forehead, nose, and eyes–and the sun’s shadows on the facial features. “So we understand the position and layout of the driver’s face on every frame that comes into the camera,” Zink states.
AI analyzes these facial landmarks and the sun’s position relative to the vehicle’s surroundings. By analyzing shadows and faces, AI works backward in determining which direction light is coming into the vehicle, regardless of where the car is heading.
“The AI is a key enabler of the system,” Zink affirms.
This AI, Zink says, utilizes neural networks and histogram of oriented gradients techniques and Bosch-trained models for these two AI methods. Methods to detect shadows and guide the screen are developed using input data specific to the domain, e.g., real-world information from the vehicle.
The most challenging edge cases are those that involve faces that are obscured by items: “Sunglasses don’t obscure much of the user’s face,” Zink says; however, big hats, scarves, or facemasks with medical designs all pose difficulties for algorithms to identify the user, comprehend the facial features, and determine the shadows cast by objects.
Bosch plans to also work with companies to ensure that the system complies with all vehicle safety requirements.
The actual sun-blocking process, Zink states, is simple: A patent-pending algorithm tracks the position of the driver’s eyes and then selectively darkens or lights up certain portions of the screen to make sure that drivers aren’t blinded. Zink’s algorithm determines the shadows and where to block those areas of the visor’s surface.
Zink states that 90% of the visor’s surface remains clear at all times regardless of the sun’s intensity or angle, eliminating that irritating situation where drivers have to continuously adjust their beaks or try to peek through or under it.
“You never have to take hands off the steering wheel to adjust the visor, or [take] your attention off the road,” Zink declares.
The sun’s glare could be more than just a minor nuisance. A medical investigation found that the chance of a life-threatening accident was 16 percent greater when the sun was bright than during average daylight.
Why not simply incorporate the LCD screen inside the windshield? In addition to the issues with cost or stones that can damage the glass, here’s a problem: If the visor is damaged and the screen is damaged, it will turn black.
The cool thing is that with driver-monitoring cameras becoming popular in high-end vehicles, like Cadillac CT6 Cadillac CT6, to control semi-autonomous driving functions safely, this Virtual Visor might become an inexpensive add-on. If cameras and computers are already in the car, the only thing needed is the visor and some codes.
In the case of those mirrors above that are vanity, Fink says that manufacturers can still offer them through an additional fold-down panel should customers request them. If Bosch could design an online mirror that will make me look like Tom Hardy, count me in.