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University of Cambridge develops 3D holograms to help see road hazards





Researchers from the University of Cambridge are currently collaborating with Google after developing in-car technology that displays high-resolution 3D holograms of road hazards directly in a driver’s field of vision in real time.

The new 3D system effectively ‘sees through’ objects to project holographic representations of road obstacles that are hidden from the driver’s field of view.

3D holograms for driving
3D holograms for driving

The visualisation is aligned with the real object in size and distance so for example, a road sign blocked from view by a large truck would appear as a 3D hologram so that the driver knows exactly where the sign is and what information it displays.

Current head-up display (HUD) systems are limited to two-dimensional projections onto the windscreen of a vehicle, but researchers from the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and University College London (UCL) have developed the new system using a 3D laser scanner and LiDAR data to create a fully 3D representation of London streets. Lidar – Light Detection and Ranging – is a remote sensing method used in cars to understand what’s going on around the vehicle.

For several years, Jana Skirnewskaja and her colleagues at the Department of Engineering have been working on alternatives to HUDs that could improve road safety by providing more accurate information to drivers while keeping their eyes on the road.

3D holographic renditions of geographical locations
3D holographic renditions of geographical locations

Currently, HUDs provide basic information such as current speed or driving directions – so this new 3D option is a real breakthrough.

“We want to project information anywhere in the driver’s field of view, but in a way that isn’t overwhelming or distracting,” said Ms Skirnewskaja, the study’s first author.

“The data we collected can be shared and stored in the cloud, so that any drivers passing by would have access to it – it’s like a more sophisticated version of the navigation apps we use every day to provide real-time traffic information.

Jana Skirnewskaja, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge
Jana Skirnewskaja, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge

“However, because these are two-dimensional images, projected onto a small area of the windscreen, the driver can be looking at the image, and not at the road ahead of them.”

She added: “We want to project information in a way that isn’t overwhelming or distracting. We don’t want to provide any information that isn’t directly related to the driving task at hand.”

The researchers are currently collaborating with Google to develop the technology so that it can be tested in real cars.

3D holograms for driving
3D holograms for driving

They are hoping to carry out road tests, either on public or private roads, during 2024.

The research was supported in part by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and Stiftung der Deutschen Wirtschaft.



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