Whitley, England - Most of us have seen the rear-view camera display on the centre-stack of upmarket cars and how, when you engage reverse gear, red or yellow lines are superimposed on the image to show where you will go - and, as you turn the wheel, the lines move accordingly.
Now Jaguar Land Rover has combined the technology with that of the head-up display, using the entire windscreen of the car as a display, and projecting high-definition graphics on to the view of the actual road - or racetrack - that the driver sees, so that their eyes never have to leave the road.
For performance drivers, that includes virtual racing lines that seem to be marked on the road, showing the optimum racing line, with changes in colour to indicate braking points.
Virtual cones can be laid out on the track ahead for advanced driver training, indicating brake markers, turn-in points and apexes - and they can be programmed to move as your lap time get faster!
But what really blurs the line between real and virtual is its ability to let you race against a 'ghost car' - either a virtual representation of your own car from a previous lap, or a lap uploaded from another driver.
Jaguar Land Rover research and technology director Dr Wolfgang Epple said: "We're working on projects that will give the driver better information to enhance the driving experience. If the image quality is high enough, the driver need only look at a display once, and showing virtual images that allow the driver to judge speed and distance more accurately will enable better decision-making and thus safer driving on road or track."
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE…
Epple's eggheads are also working on a gesture control system to keep the driver's eyes on the road and reduce distraction by limiting the need to look at or feel for buttons and switches to press. It's based on the latest capacitive discharge touch screens - as used in smartphones and tablets - but amped up for better range and accuracy.
Today's best smartphones can detect where your finger is going to land from about 5mm away, which is how they can often display a typed character a heartbeat before you actually tap the screen.
Jaguar Land Rover's E-Field Sensing increases that range to about 150mm, which means it can accurately track any hand gestures you make anywhere near it.
“Gesture control is already an accepted way of controlling anything from TV sets to games consoles.”
Epples explained: "Now we've identified those in-car functions that still need to be controlled by physical buttons - and those that could be controlled by gesture and carefully calibrated motion sensors.
"We're testing it now on features such as sun-blinds, rear wipers and satellite navigation maps; it could be on sale within the next few years."
They're also looking at ways to replace rear-view and external mirrors with cameras and virtual displays - but two-dimensional images on a screen don't allow the driver to accurately judge distance or speed, so they've come up with a three-dimensional instrument cluster that uses the latest head and eye-tracking technology to track the position of the drivers head and eyes.
The projection software then adjusts the image to create a three-dimensional effect by feeding each eye a slightly differing angle of the same image to create the perception of depth and allow the driver to judge distance.