German tech company Continental is working on a system to make thick A pillars in cars invisible so drivers can see motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians.
Most modern cars’ A pillars have have curtain airbags and rollover protection which makes them thick, presenting a huge blind spot that obscures small and vulnerable road users such as riders.
Now Continental is using its interior camera and integrated OLED displays in the vehicle’s A-pillar to virtually make it invisible.
Their Virtual A-Pillar tracks the driver’s movements and displays an image of the vehicle’s exterior environment on interior OLED displays, enabling the driver to “see through” the A-pillar.
It’s a similar system to the Jaguar Land Rover “360 Virtual Urban Windscreen”.
While these inventions may help reduce crashes caused by drivers not being able to see riders approaching on side streets, overtaking cars or being overtaken, it doesn’t stop driver inattention.
The very fact that drivers would feel more secure with these and other “safety” technologies may make them drop their defences and not look out for bikes.
In fact, most Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You (SMIDSY) crashes occur when drivers have perfectly good vision, usually at intersections, yet still pull out in front of riders.
SMIDSY crashes are the biggest cause of motorcycle crashes.
Research by several universities has revealed several reasons for SMIDSY, including:
- The inability of drivers to judge a rider’s approaching speed;
- Inability to register the approach of small vehicles such as motorcycles;
- Gaps in vision when quickly scanning left and right (saccadic masking);
- The “low threat” of a motorcycle compared with a larger vehicle;
- Motorcycles are about 10% of traffic so drivers don’t expect to see them;
- Distraction by in-car technology and mobile phones; and
- Hi-tech safety devices make drivers lazy.
The intentions of these invisible A pillar inventions are noteworthy, but they will never replace education programs to remind drivers to check for motorcycles such as the Maurice Blackburn Lawyers video campaigns.