A pair of patent applications from Honda appear to show technology that will bring us one step closer to augmented-reality driving. The patents involve head-up displays (HUDs) and technology that can show people and vehicles that would otherwise be obscured. It'd be like being Superman behind the wheel.

The first of the patents is for pedestrian detection. Many vehicles have a version of pedestrian detection that will alert a driver of a possible collision and automatically brake. This system from Honda would go a step further. Rather than just intervening when someone steps in front of the car, the proposed system would be able to detect multiple pedestrians and display their locations on an augmented reality HUD. It would also be able to locate pedestrians that are out of the driver's field of view, whether obscured by blind spots or something else. With this system, drivers would have information that would allow them to actively avoid a situation before the car has to intervene.

The second patent adds vehicle-to-vehicle communications for keeping track of cars in traffic. In the patent, Honda explains how the system would work with a line of three cars. Provided the cars were connected with a V2V system, the lead car would communicate with the middle car to calculate the distance between them. Then, the middle car would relay that information to the last car, which would display an icon representing the lead vehicle with its position and status on the augmented reality HUD. This would allow the driver to effectively see through the middle car to know where the lead car is and what it's doing. The system would also be able to keep track of when the lead car starts braking, giving the driver advance notice and more time to react to a sudden slowdown or stop.

This isn't the first time Honda has looked into advanced pedestrian technology or short-range communications. A few years ago, the company experimented with a system that would allow a car to communicate with pedestrians' cell phones to see their position, even when the sensors couldn't. The detection technology described in the first patent appears to rely only on sensors. Honda also experimented with V2V communication on motorcycles, so it's possible that project laid some groundwork for the augmented reality system in the second patent. How soon we'll see something like these systems reach the market is unclear, but with how quickly sensors and semi-autonomous technology have been progressing lately, it may be sooner rather than later.

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