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Patents Transportation Hardware Technology

Toyota Patents Cloaking Device To Make Car Pillars Appear Transparent (thedrive.com) 105

Toyota has patented a cloaking device that aims to make big, chunky car pillars transparent. The "apparatuses and methods for making an object appear transparent" which Toyota just patented uses cleverly placed mirrors to bend light around an object making it visible from the other side. The Drive reports: So you're not really seeing through the pillars, you're seeing around them. This is a much cheaper option than adding more cameras and screens all over the place and much more realistic than Harry Potter's invisibility cloak. The patent was filed with the U.S. patent office by Toyota North America, so if Toyota does go forward with this technology, we can probably expect to see it in cars in the U.S.
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Toyota Patents Cloaking Device To Make Car Pillars Appear Transparent

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  • Star Trek (Score:4, Funny)

    by Khyber ( 864651 ) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 15, 2017 @09:38PM (#55022563) Homepage Journal

    So does this make the Americans or the Japanese the Romulans?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Per the treaty, we aren't allowed cloaking devices.

      This will surely lead to war.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't know what it is—maybe a difference between the size of American roads and the size of Japanese roads—but every Toyota I've ever been in is built in such a way as to make it very likely that you'll run over a pedestrian who has just entered the crosswalk.

    Every time I approach a 4-way stop or some other intersection in a Toyota, I've got wiggle my head wildly this way and that to make sure I get a good view behind the "pillars". Surely, Toyota has received complaints, and thus Toyota has c

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 15, 2017 @09:43PM (#55022587)

    my 2017 car has 12 airbags with 6 in the pillars and all the pillars are as thick as coffee cups and i cant see shit out of any other window but the windshield

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Windshield is the only window you need.

      Remember, if it is not straight in front of you it does not exist.

    • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Tuesday August 15, 2017 @10:27PM (#55022725)

      That's why you're supposed to have a blind spot and rear cross-traffic warning system.

      Seriously, though, my 2015 car also has poorer visibility than older cars I've had, but honestly I don't have much trouble with it. The main problem is the blind spot and also the rear view when backing out, but it's not a problem: my BSM works great when changing lanes, in conjunction with the big side mirrors (these mirrors are larger than any I've ever had, I'm sure), and when backing out I have a rearview camera plus the BSM turns into a RCTA (rear cross-traffic alert), and even warns me if there's pedestrians walking behind me, as well as oncoming cars. It's not foolproof and you still need to be aware of your surroundings of course, but overall with these aids I'm sure I'm safer (esp. when backing up) than in any of the older cars I've driven that had more of a "greenhouse". The thick front pillars are a bit of a problem though, and not currently alleviated by any technology, so I do have to make sure to check extra carefully for pedestrians.

      • by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2017 @12:36AM (#55023085) Homepage

        The reason is that the A-pillar has to be stronger today to cope with crash test requirements. The more sloping windscreens initiated by the hunt for lower aerodynamic drag also contributes to put the A-pillar closer to your eyes.

        At the same time many vehicle manufacturers now work on replacing the exterior mirrors with cameras. It's not necessarily a good thing from all perspectives though as it's one more thing that can fail and something that makes the vehicles even more expensive.

        • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2017 @01:03AM (#55023135)

          I disagree about them being more expensive. The cameras they use in cars aren't super-high-res like the ones in modern phones, and are really quite cheap. You can get Chinese backup camera systems on Ebay for under $100 now, and that's including the monitor! The cost to an auto OEM for just a backup camera is going to be a fraction of that. Now go look at how much a replacement rearview mirror (for the sides) costs; they're not that cheap, between the big, complex housing (which also folds in, either manually or powered), plus the glass mirror, plus the heating element (many mirrors now are heated), plus the motors to move it around, etc. Replacing all that with a camera would be a big cost savings, and small LCD screens are pretty cheap these days too. However it hasn't happened yet as the regulatory agencies haven't OKed it, but it's coming. It's also questionable how it'll be done; probably smaller monitors mounted near where today's mirrors are, to ease the transition. But they are really handy; I've driven a family member's minivan that has a camera on the right-side mirror, and when you signal a right turn it shows the image on the dash monitor. It shows a nice view that's a lot better than what I'd see with just the mirror, the main problem is it isn't always-on, and it doesn't integrate that well with the existing mirror (the display is in the middle of the dash, not near the mirror).

          As for sloping windscreens, that's nothing new. My 2015 car's windscreen isn't any more sloped than the one on my old 1994 Integra, in fact it seems a little less so, though I haven't directly measured them to compare. It's the airbags in the pillar, plus the greater strength needed for modern crash (rollover) standards.

          • Your argument about cost is correct, but wrong in the end. They may be cheap, but that doesn't mean they are being sold as such by manufacturers and dealers.

            I can also buy a nice audio/video/touch screen/nav head unit for the radio location on ebay for a couple hundred bucks, but the dealers want to charge you thousands for their version with less features.

            same with lots of extras that are put on cars by dealers vs. aftermarket options. Want nicer rims/wheels, dealer has 1 or 2 options that are all
            • I'm not wrong. You're talking about dealer-added options; those things are *always* massively overpriced. Cameras aren't dealer-added options; in this scenario, we're talking about replacing the mirrors with them. That makes them factory-standard. Cars with airbags don't cost a fortune now, as you can get very cheap little economy cars that have a bunch of them. Standard parts do not add much to a car's price tag, if any. Even many other things that are parts of (factory) option packages now are prett

          • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

            ; I've driven a family member's minivan that has a camera on the right-side mirror, and when you signal a right turn it shows the image on the dash monitor. It shows a nice view that's a lot better than what I'd see with just the mirror, the main problem is it isn't always-on, and it doesn't integrate that well with the existing mirror (the display is in the middle of the dash, not near the mirror).

            Ow, whiplash alert.

            They will put the displays near where you're looking - the worst thing int he world would b

          • You can get Chinese backup camera systems on Ebay for under $100 now, and that's including the monitor! The cost to an auto OEM for just a backup camera is going to be a fraction of that.

            I wouldn't be so sure about that. Car manufacturers have to factor in the serviceability. If a camera system breaks during the warranty period, they are on the hook for the cost of the replacement, which may involve disassembling the dashboard of the car (i.e. lots of labor hours.), not to mention the reputation damage if

            • Why would there be much labor? Cameras aren't mounted in the dashboard; why would you need to disassemble the dashboard to get to them? Cameras are mounted on the trunk, and for side-view ones, they're mounted in the mirrors (and will be moved to pods where the mirrors currently are when they're allowed to get rid of mirrors). This is just nuts; replacing a camera doesn't mean you have to replace every bit of wiring that goes to the camera.

              Yes, they'll use higher-quality cameras than what you get on Eb

              • Why would there be much labor? Cameras aren't mounted in the dashboard

                The monitors are (I quote you: "and that's including the monitor!"). You want the camera without a monitor to hook into the already-present dashboard monitor syste? Now you need to ensure that the camera and the dashboard hardware talk to each other reliably even though they are made by different companies. I've had a phone where the camera would occasionally stop working until a reboot.

                The automaker is buying *millions* of the same camer

          • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

            The difference between a Chinese cheap camera/monitor and a manufacturer vehicle integrated one is that the manufacturer has to take responsibility for failures and the consequences of a failure and they have to incorporate that into the price. For the Chinese camera you just scrap and get a new one if it fails and if no accident happens then it's no big deal. If an accident happens you as a driver is responsible.

            • The Chinese system has to be shipped to you, which isn't free. It's sold as a single unit, to you, an individual customer, so there's no quantity discount at all. It's sold on Ebay or similar, which has a hefty fee for the seller (12-15%), and it's paid for through Paypal or a credit card, which adds another fee (~3%). Selling stuff individually to people isn't cheap, which is why typical retailers mark up their wares a minimum of 100%, usually more (from the wholesale price). Do you seriously not under

          • by Cederic ( 9623 )

            Wait, a camera+monitor is under $100 and that's not more expensive than a mirror?

            What the fuck are your car mirrors made out of? Solid diamond?

            • Go look up the new price for an entire OEM mirror assembly for any decent new car. It's going to be well over $100, probably at least $150, even for an economy car.

              • by Cederic ( 9623 )

                Ouch. That's just batty. Although heated electronically adjustable mirrors do have a few different bits to them.

        • It's not necessarily a good thing from all perspectives though as it's one more thing that can fail and something that makes the vehicles even more expensive.

          I'm not so sure about the "more expensive" part. Cameras are more complex than mirrors, but they require a lot less material and all of the complexity in their construction is completely automated, plus small cameras are used in many other things, so auto manufacturers can probably use off-the-shelf parts rather than something custom, and they almost certainly don't need to make and stock different cameras for every car in their lineup, like they do mirrors. It's entirely likely that cameras are less expens

          • Screens don't change the view image when you move your head left or right, or even up or down, to get a new view through the mirror. You may be able to compensate with a more fish-eye type of lens though. Distance to the object will get harder with a more fish-eye effect, and even without it, you only have one image for both eyes, not two like you get in a mirror. So the depth information is lost.
            • , you only have one image for both eyes, not two like you get in a mirror

              Depth perception is not based on stereoscopy beyond a couple of dozen feet anyway. And for close up you can just add distance marks, like most backup cameras have.

    • Yes, but have a high-speed accident that completely wrecks your car (and several others) then just get out and walk away, and you'll thank all those airbags. (Happened to me).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 15, 2017 @09:44PM (#55022595)

    Oh the thing that attaches the roof to the car. At first I thought they meant the concrete pillars put up to stop cars from driving into businesses. It would be really dumb for those to be transparent. People on foot run into them enough as is LOL.

    • yes. the A pillar, B and C. A is front windshield B is middle and C is the rear. Left and Right
      • Or just A pillars when the top is down...;)
      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        yes. the A pillar, B and C. A is front windshield B is middle and C is the rear. Left and Right

        Mostly right, but different cars have different pillar configurations.

        A pillars are the forward most pillar, each consecutive letter is the next pillar back.

        In a Coupe, the A pillar is at the front and the B pillar is often at the back as many coupes have no centre pillar. Estates and wagons often have a D pillar because B and C are both centre. Convertibles only have an A pillar.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The methods they describe are materially the same as prior magicians tricks as well as described in numerous fictional accounts... prior art

    • Well that's disappointing. I was planning to take whatever they had and just tack an "on the internet" to the end. I could have cornered the market.
    • Well, hang on.. are the magicians' tricks published?

    • by skids ( 119237 )

      Yeah, but getting the mirrors to behave safely during an air bag deployment could deserve a patent.

      It's about time. The visibility behind the A pillars has always bothered me. Not just the pillars but that crossbar along the back window. Somehow people always drive the exact distance behind me so their headlights jiggle behind that over bumps, which is irritating because it looks like they are flashing them frantically.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The novel part is using light polarization in order to let parts lf the image pass straight through the same mirrors that also reflect other parts of the image around the pillar. This means only half the light is coming through, but thanks to the logarithmic nature of vision it will only seem a little darker. It might not work well in combination with polarizing sunglasses though.

  • I need a cloaking device that keeps other cars, namely police, from seeing my car.

    An EMP gun to disable other drivers would be good too.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      An SEP field would solve your problems ten times as easily.
  • The key is to have pillar cross-section shorter than the distance between eyes -- voila, can see right through it, without realizing it! I only noticed this effect after I got a new car -- suddenly pillars were an obstacle.
  • Why not the whole car? Be fun watching the police try to chase a ghost.
  • and the pillars were ridiculous. It felt like I was boxed in driving the damn thing. The itty bitty windows didn't help either.
  • If we only had mirrors / prism / periscopes that wrap the light around the big trucks that I'm driving behind. I'm running through a red light? Oh, now I see, now that I'm in the middle of the intersection. I'm just following this semi-truck at a safe distance. The way the traffic lights are positioned on poles that reach above and into the middle of the lane where I am (Japan) means you have no idea unless you're following way behind.

    I'll take credit for the patent, can someone please do this? The cy
  • The left blind spot on my Prius is so bad that doing a shoulder check is almost pointless, I do anyway due to habit, use the mirrors and pray nothing is small enough to hide in that blind spot. The right blind spot isn't as bad, though still anxiety-inducing. I swear I read something recently about similar tech being used to make the car's hood 'transparent'.

    • by nasch ( 598556 )

      Look into the mirror, and keep looking as you lean forward and somewhat towards the mirror. You get a different view in the mirror when you lean forward so it helps alleviate the blind spot. It's probably not much more inconvenient than looking over your shoulder.

  • well this seems innovative but funny at the same times.
  • by hankwang ( 413283 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2017 @04:39AM (#55023627) Homepage

    If you look at the front-page figure and Fig. 1 in the patent application, it will become apparent that the device only works for light rays entering at one particular angle. Essentially, it's like looking through louvers with an aspect ratio of 1:4 (fig. 1) or 1:6 (front page), which means that you won't be able to see through at all if your eyes are off by 25 cm horizontal at 1 m distance (i.e., passenger-side pillars) and whatever you see is substantially obscured for smaller angles. This is roughly how those 3M privacy screens for laptops work. That might be barely acceptable for the passenger-side pillars, but would be completely unworkable for the driver-side pillars.

    Moreover, the surfaces 126 and 146 in Fig. 2 will need to be polarizing filters or opaque black surfaces so that you don't get to see spurious overlaid images. If you make them black, you will have replaced the obscuration of the pillar by two big black sheets that are only invisible if you look at them from one particular angle. If you make them polarizing absorbers, good luck in manufacturing those such that they don't reflect at grazing-incidence angles. (Those surfaces are mentioned in paragraph 37, without further reasoning about the benefits or tradeoffs, suggesting that the inventors don't know yet how to deal with these issues.)

    By the way, the inventors have the polarizations the wrong way around in the figures. Although the correctly mention that p-polarization is transmitted and s-polarization is reflected, they have the arrows indicating the light polarization the wrong way around...

  • I'm pretty sure I read about this technology years ago.... from Jaguar. https://tech.slashdot.org/stor... [slashdot.org]
  • No. That's the point. We won't see it.
  • The patent was filed with the U.S. patent office by Toyota North America, so if Toyota does go forward with this technology, we can probably expect to see it in cars in the U.S.

    And if Toyota does not go forward with this technology, they won't put it in cars in the U.S.

  • Basically, their cloaking device consists of two or more mirrors, strategically placed so that when you sit in the driver 's seat, and ONLY the driver's seat, you can see what is behind the pillar.

    What exactly is patent worthy in this idea, that wasn't discovered 100's of years ago.

    • by cstacy ( 534252 )

      Basically, their cloaking device consists of two or more mirrors, strategically placed so that when you sit in the driver 's seat, and ONLY the driver's seat, you can see what is behind the pillar.

      What exactly is patent worthy in this idea, that wasn't discovered 100's of years ago.

      Well, there are lots of computers in the car, and the mirrors are part of the car, so ...

  • if Toyota does go forward with this technology, we can probably expect to see it in cars in the U.S.

    I don't think you're supposed to see it...

  • If I knew putting mirrors facing each other and looking between them at a 45 degree angle was patentable, I would have patented it when I was 7. The only reason Toyota were the first to file this patent was that everyone else thought it was entirely obvious.

  • Gravitational lensing. But without a foreground galaxy!

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