Electronics and Semiconductors

Lidar-based 3D holographic HUDs may improve road safety

27 April 2021
A lidar only image on the left and on the right a lidar-based 3D holographic image based on the new system. Source: University of Cambridge

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and University College London have developed what they claim is the first lidar-based augmented reality heads-up display (HUD) for use in vehicles.

The technology uses lidar data to create ultra-high-definition holographic representations of road objects beamed directly to the driver’s eyes, instead of 2D windscreen projections used in most HUDs. A prototype version of the technology was tested and reportedly improved road safety by showing potential hazards without distracting the driver.

Researchers tested the technology on a busy street in central London, showing how the holographic images appear in the driver’s field of view according to their actual position, creating an augmented reality. This might be useful where objects such as road signs are hidden by large trees or trucks, allowing the driver to “see through” visual obstructions.

"Head-up displays are being incorporated into connected vehicles, and usually project information such as speed or fuel levels directly onto the windscreen in front of the driver, who must keep their eyes on the road," said Jana Skirnewskaja, a PhD candidate from Cambridge's Department of Engineering. "However, we wanted to go a step further by representing real objects in as panoramic 3D projections."

Lidar was used to scan Malet Street in central London using a technique called terrestrial laser scanning. Millions of pulses were sent out from multiple positions along Malet Street and the lidar data was then combined with point cloud data to create a 3D model.

The scan captures an entire scene not just trees but cars, trucks, people, signs and anything else on a typical street. While the data was captured from a stationary platform, the system could be placed on autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles to build 3D models while driving.

The optical setup can project multiple layers of holograms with the help of advanced algorithms, researchers said. These projections can appear at different sizes and are aligned with the position of the real object on the street, such as a hidden street sign appearing as a holographic projection relative to its position behind an obstruction.

The next steps include refining the system for personalization of the HUDs and allowing the layered holograms to be freely arranged in the driver’s vision space.

"This layering technique provides an augmented reality experience and alerts the driver in a natural way," Skirnewskaja said. "Every individual may have different preferences for their display options. For instance, the driver's vital health signs could be projected in a desired location of the head-up display.

"Panoramic holographic projections could be a valuable addition to existing safety measures by showing road objects in real time. Holograms act to alert the driver but are not a distraction."

Additional steps include working to miniaturize the optical components in the holographic setup to fit into a car. Once this is accomplished, researchers expect to begin testing vehicles on public roads.

The full research can be found in the journal Optics Express.

To contact the author of this article, email PBrown@globalspec.com

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