Auto Tech

Continental's 'see-through' A-pillars use cameras, OLEDs to nix blind spots

A-Pillars aren't getting any thinner, so we may as well try to make them "invisible."

Seeing a person is a pretty good way to lower the chance of hitting them with your car.

Continental

As cars get bigger and bulkier, whether for safety or design's sake, blind spots are getting bigger, too. Some automakers have recently filed patent applications for technology to get around this, but the supplier Continental has its own solution.

This month, Continental previewed technology that it believes could reduce or eliminate blind spots related to a car's A-pillar, which is the part of the car's body between the windshield and the front window. Its Virtual A-Pillar technology uses already existing technology to make these pillars "see-through."

Here's how it works. A surround-view camera captures the area around the vehicle, and it takes the relevant part (the part the A-pillar might obscure) and feeds that live image to an OLED display wrapped around the interior portion of the A-pillar. A head-tracking camera in the dashboard then shifts the OLED display's output based on the driver's head position to ensure the driver sees what's on the other side of the pillar.

Continental notes that A-pillars can obscure more than 3 feet's worth of area at a distance of 12 feet from the vehicle, and that blind spot grows as the distance does. This can obscure pedestrians about to enter intersections, creating some serious safety concerns. Continental's system attempts to even the playing field by enhancing the driver's visibility.

Automakers are also looking into this tech. Most recently, Hyundai and Kia filed a patent application that works similar to Continental's, albeit without a head-tracking camera. Last year, Toyota filed a similar patent application, although it relies on mirrors to "bend" light around the A-pillar instead of using expensive displays. In 2014, Jaguar Land Rover previewed a similar technology, too. In the next few years, as camera and screen costs go down, this could become the Next Big Thing in auto safety.