When car companies talk about doing something new, they usually mean a different grille or a higher grade of plastic interior trim. MINI, on the other hand, is claiming to alter the way you perceive reality.
Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the MINI Augment Vision concept would certainly change the way people interact with their cars if it went into production.
The system uses some rather unfortunate looking augmented-reality glasses to bring relevant information off of dashboard displays and directly into the driver’s field of vision.
That includes a head-up display with speed and speed-limit information, a messaging function that lets the driver know when a text has come in, and then reads the message, and an Augmented Parking feature that projects images from an external camera.
The eyewear also functions outside the car, allowing drivers to mark a destination and then import it into the navigation system. It can also give you directions to your car if you forget where it is.
On the move, the navigation system can also project virtual arrows onto the road, and highlight points of interest – including open parking spaces.
However, the coolest feature may be “X-Ray View,” which allows drivers to “see” through certain parts of the car that produce blind spots, such as the A-pillars and doors.
Augmented Vision isn’t meant for production, but it demonstrates how augmented-reality technology could be used in future cars, MINI says.
Yet while carmakers are eager to incorporate the latest tech into their new models, it might be worth pausing to consider how all of this will affect safety.
MINI says the fact that Augmented Vision’s projections don’t obscure actual obstacles or other road users actually improves safety.
But having your field of vision suddenly cluttered with a virtual speedometer, directional arrows, and an icon showing the latest text from your friends sounds like it could be disconcerting.
Carmakers are adamant that infotainment systems that don’t involve pushing buttons or taking one’s eyes off the road can be a safe enough substitute for tech-free driving.
The thing that systems like MINI Augmented Vision don’t address is that drivers are still being asked to deal with more information at any given time, and that can’t be good for concentration.