On the main axis of the autonomous car revolution appears an element that almost nobody repairs when driving: the windshield. In a short time, the front moon of the vehicle will become a multifunctional screen where relevant driving information will be received, films will be screened and advertising impacts will be launched on the occupants. The forecasts, usually very optimistic, indicate that this will occur within five years.
Numerous help systems, such as adaptive cruise control, lane maintenance alert or windshield wipers and automatic lights, already depend on the windshield (and the cameras and sensors it houses). There is another element that necessarily relies on the glass: the Head Up Display (HUD), which projects car data (speed, navigator indications or signal recognition) so that the driver can consult them without taking their eyes off the road. And this is the basis of the next evolution of the windshield: augmented reality, 3D and especially the projection of information. Both for practical reasons and (at a more advanced stage) for economic reasons.
Experts say that three-dimensional display systems help structure and better understand messages, and drivers move in a three-dimensional environment. A study by the University of Stuttgart concludes that 3D technology (like the one used in HUD) accelerates the driver’s reaction and facilitates distance and depth calculations. This will be important in level 3 autonomous cars, in which the motorist must be prepared to take control at any time.
The manufacturers of screens are developing moons capable of incorporating digital elements that in turn provide significant details: warnings, useful indications for circulation or warning signs will appear on future windshields, and some engineers are already working on the possibility of making video calls from a autonomous car to another. But the most important step will be the following: the windshield turned into a movie screen and advertising canvas.
The premonitory words of Christoph Keese, vice president of the Axel Springer publishing group, indicate that this is the way: “The windshield will become the most important part of a car.” For the prophecy to be fulfilled, the autonomous car must first be fully developed, a space in which, according to some calculations, people will spend an average of one and a half hours a day. The windshield will be the TV and the distribution of content will transform the car business model.
The windshield will become the most important part of a car
Car brands will receive revenue, rather than the sale of vehicles, the sale of kilometers and the commercialization of digital content packages. Likewise, they will obtain benefits from the exploitation of advertising: the moons of the vehicle (probably not only the front, but also the sides and the rear) will become virtual billboards.
Technology is moving in the same direction. In the short term, the windshield will have a variable opacity to fulfill several functions at the same time: it will be transparent so that drivers can see through it – the landscape or the road – but that transparency can be graduated so that elements are projected on it of augmented reality or 3D movies.
The official census of the General Directorate of Trafico reached almost 27 million drivers in 2018, who spend about 300 hours a year at the wheel, according to several surveys carried out by mobility applications and insurance comparators. If both data are crossed, it results in motorists in Spain add about 8,100 million hours inside a car. And this, extrapolating the data on a global scale, means that content and advertising providers can have 600,000 million hours of visual impact per year on cars. It is not difficult to deduct the income that vehicle manufacturers can obtain by exploiting digital content through the windshield.