GM Pursues Augmented Reality

Thomas Seder sees a big part of the automotive interior that’s not being put to the use that it could be.

Thomas Seder sees a big part of the automotive interior that’s not being put to the use that it could be. And so he, along with researchers at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Southern California, as well as his colleagues in the Vehicle Development Laboratory at GM Research and Planning, are undertaking a project that may not go into production before mid-decade, but will likely have a significant effect when it does.

Seder, lab group manager in the Human Machine Interface (HMI) group, is heading up a project that will turn the windshield into a massive heads-up display.

Seder says that the undertaking is more akin to what is available in the aerospace industry than in auto; prior to working at GM Seder was working on display and HMI tech at Rockwell Collins (, a supplier of communications and avionics to the defense and aerospace industries. That is, GM offers heads-up display systems on the GMC Acadia, Chevy Corvette, Buick LaCrosse, and Cadillac STS. In these cases, there is a ghostly alphanumeric image that is reflected in the driver’s view on the windshield. But that’s not what Seder’s group is working on.

Rather, they are coating the wind-shield with a series of transparent phosphors. Under ordinary conditions, the windshield is just a wind- shield. But when activated by a number of different functions—say when using a navigation system or when driving through fog—a compact laser scans over the windshield and by exciting the appropriate phosphors highlights an area of interest. For example, in the case of using it with a navigation system, based on GPS and mapping data, it would be possible to actually highlight the destination of the actual building by “painting” the appropriate phosphors on the windshield. A camera system would track where the driver’s eyes are, thereby appropriately aligning the display with the view.

In driving through fog, sensors that are already being used on a number of vehicles would be integrated with the system, providing the means by which the white line on the side of the road could be enhanced and any detected objects that might otherwise be invisible (other cars, pedestrians, wildlife) could be enhanced.

Seder points out this approach is “augmented reality.” And as there is an ever-aging population on the roads, this augmentation is going to become even more important to both those drivers as well as those who happen to be on the roads at the same time.

While he admits there is a significant amount of work to be done, they are making steady progress in the labs.—GSV