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Toyota patents cloaking device to help 'see' through car pillars

Video cameras? Pfft. Toyota's solution is simpler and less expensive.


You'd think that an automaker receiving a patent for a "cloaking device" would run counter to the interconnected ideas of visibility and safety, but Toyota's latest patent wants to use such a device to help improve safety.

Toyota received a US patent for "Apparatuses and methods for making an object appear transparent," or as the first three words of the abstract put it, "a cloaking device." To summarize, Toyota wants to use mirrors to bend visible light around an object, allowing a viewer to see what's on the other side of it.

Here's lookin' at you, kid.

US Patent and Trademark Office

If you're wondering how such a system would benefit drivers, look no further than the A-pillars to the left and right of the dashboard. These pillars have grown over time, as crash-test requirements get stronger, which can hamper visibility. Being able to see "through" (it's more like "around") the A-pillar without craning your neck every which way could greatly benefit pedestrian safety.

In the patent, Toyota points out that this sort of technology can already be put to use in vehicles, but it requires video cameras and other expensive materials and equipment. Therefore, an equally efficient but less expensive solution needed to be found, and Toyota believes its "cloaking device" fits that bill.

If you happened to study optics as part of your postgraduate degree in physics, feel free to head right to the patent and dig into the real math.