SOME DRIVERS need to wear prescription glasses for driving, and most of us keep a pair of sunglasses to hand, but Mini is hoping to see us in an altogether more hi-tech kind of eyewear. Its augmented reality (AR) glasses take the strain out of everyday driving duties, such as keeping an eye on the speed limit or spotting an empty parking space.
The car maker will show off its Mini Augmented Vision specs at the Shanghai motor show next week. The glasses may not have the timeless design of a pair of Ray-Bans, or the inconspicuous look of Google Glass, but then they are a work-in-progress prototype, developed in partnership with Qualcomm Connected Experiences.
A range of simple tasks can be carried out by Mini’s AR specs. Current vehicle speed, the local speed limit and sat nav instructions can be displayed in the driver’s field of vision – features already available on the optional head-up display that drivers can have fitted to a new Mini.
However, AR means that the navigation instructions can become easier to follow, as graphic information is superimposed onto the road ahead.
For example, they might highlight the desired turning or the correct exit from a roundabout. Other handy features are that they can highlight empty parking spaces and display video taken from a camera housed in the passenger mirror, which lets the driver easily see how close to the kerb they are when parking. Whether driving instructors would consider this cheating is another matter.
The glasses even work outside the car, guiding the driver from a car park to an unfamiliar shop or office, say. And Mini says the glasses allow the driver to “see through” the windscreen pillars or doors, like in systems displayed by Jaguar Land Rover.
Those who find the increasing levels of technology a distraction – a concern highlighted by Driving – may be dismayed to learn that Mini’s glasses also let drivers know when they have a text message on their smartphone, which can then be read out by the car’s infotainment system.
Jay Wright, vice-president of Qualcomm Connected Experiences, said: “Mini Augmented Vision offers a compelling example of what’s possible today, and what we can expect in the future.”
The Department for Transport has previously taken a tough stance on such wearable technology. Last July it said it was “in discussion with the police to ensure that individuals do not use this technology while driving”. However, it has since hinted it may have softened its approach, after holding talks with Google to investigate how AR glasses could be used legally by drivers.