25th March 2016
Future autonomous cars may include windshield movie displays
Ford Motor Company has filed a patent for what it calls an "Autonomous Vehicle Entertainment System" to be used in self-driving cars. If successfully developed and commercialised, this would enable the interior side of a windshield to be turned into a 50-inch movie screen.
The patent describes a dual-screen system, which consists of a projector, along with a large and small screen. The larger screen can be automatically deployed at the front of the vehicle's interior – completely replacing the window view – while the seat layout can also be adjusted to provide additional comfort and leg room, offering a more "theatre"-like experience. The projector is mounted to the ceiling, aimed at the large screen, playing a variety of media content that may include movies, television shows, games, music and so on.
This large cinematic screen is only intended for deployment in fully autonomous mode, i.e. when the vehicle is driving itself. It retracts back into the ceiling when a human driver is needed at the wheel. If entering non-autonomous mode, Ford states the media content might continue to be viewable on a smaller screen elsewhere – such as the dashboard, instrument cluster, or rear-view mirror:
At this stage, the Autonomous Vehicle Entertainment System is only a concept, without a prototype or demonstration in the works: "We submit patents on innovative ideas as a normal course of business," says company spokesman Allan Hall, in an interview with Forbes magazine. "Patent applications are intended to protect new ideas, but aren't necessarily an indication of new business or product plans."
However, Ford has been investing heavily in autonomous vehicle research. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year, it was revealed that the company is tripling its fleet of fully autonomous Fusion Hybrid models – making it the largest in the industry – with about 30 vehicles being tested on roads in California, Arizona and Michigan. Ford is also using a lightweight, next-generation sensor technology featuring higher resolution and a longer range of 200 metres, capable of handling a greater variety of driving scenarios.
Given the massive cost savings, improved safety, reduced congestion and other benefits, it seems almost inevitable that self-driving cars will be commonplace in the not-too-distant future and will revolutionise the world of transport. A large majority (75%) of new cars will be autonomous by 2035, according to a forecast by Navigant Research. The market for in-car entertainment systems like that seen in Ford's patent could be huge. Perhaps their idea could be further refined to remove the need for a ceiling projector – instead using a flexible, roll-up electronic display (pictured below). Either way, long distance journeys could become a lot less boring in the future.
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