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Clear view all around

Published:Sunday | November 16, 2014 | 12:00 AM
In this 2009 photo, workers give the final check-up on new Prius hybrid vehicles at Toyota Tsutsumi plant in Toyota, central Japan. Although it is not standard on the vehicle, developers have implemented the new camera technology on a Toyota Prius. - Contributed

Chad Bryan, Staff Reporter

Researchers in Japan have begun experimenting with a system that gives drivers a 360 view around the vehicle, allowing access to images of the surroundings despite the body of the car and passengers inside it. The claim is that the system not only enhances safety, but is also an enjoyable way of driving.

This transparent effect has already been implemented on a Toyota Prius.

Developed by researchers at the Graduate School of Media Design, Keio University, the system utilises a computer connected to a system of half mirrors, projectors and extremely bright retro-reflective beads.

Light from projectors enters the beads and is bent. The beads then unbend the light, sending the image back to the driver. The result is a clear view of everything that happens around the car. Using this technology, a driver is able to see through passengers in the back seat to the road behind, or even access multiple angles around the car simultaneously.

Optical camouflage

Optical camouflage uses similar technology, that complex system allowing the driver to view the world outside the car and giving the illusion of not being enclosed in a vehicle.

Land Rover has already experimented with the idea of having a transparent car. For now, it is only the bonnet of the vehicle which the driver is able to see through. Mercedes-Benz also has experimented with the invisible car, going further than the Land Rover's transparent bonnet to apply the technology to the entire vehicle.

That system utilises a complex network of cameras and camouflage technology.