Virtual windscreen and laser guidance just two of the new technologies which Jaguar Land Rover aims to bring to market

Jaguar Land Rover has revealed some of its future technologies, which could usher in the end for conventional instrument packs and conventional headlights.

Displayed at its research and development centre in Gaydon, Warwickshire, the company says it is working on ‘virtual windscreens’ and a new lighting and vehicle guidance system powered by lasers.

Research engineer Paul Widdowson demonstrated JLR’s advanced work in using ‘structured light’ as a way of both projecting images onto the road surface and for mapping the topography rough ground ahead of the car.

JLR is experimenting with laser projections that lay down a grid or box shape that’s the same width as the vehicle on the road surface a few metres ahead of the car. This would allow the driver to judge the car’s width with extreme accuracy, a very useful benefit on crowded city streets.

These laser projections could also be used to project animated arrows on the road surface, showing a vehicle’s intent to make a turn more clearly than easily obscured indicator units. The ‘structured lights’ could also be used for working out the depth of water the driver is about to wade through as well as mapping off-road surfaces ahead of the vehicle. 

In theory it could also be used on road surfaces to provide hyper-accurate information for an active suspension system. The accuracy of the information provided by laser projections also means that they can be used as safety sensors for parking or pedestrian avoidance.

Perhaps the most radical use for the new laser technology is a replacement for conventional headlamp units. The light beams – which are projected from tiny light units - are easy to place accurately, allowing, for example, road edges to illuminated without using a conventional high beams. 

Because the light is sent from the power units along a fibre optic cable, future laser headlamps could be much small and less bulky than today’s units, opening the way for a significant shift in car design. Reducing the bulk of headlamp units could also improve pedestrian safety. 

Widdowson revealed that his team is already talking to suppliers about prototyping the idea and getting enough power for 2500 Lumens in a package volume of around 0.5-litres.


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The firm's new virtual windscreen technology enables various information to be projected on the screen, including sat-nav information, hazard warnings and most of the information that appears on conventional instrument packs. 

Unlike conventional head-up displays, which only project onto a small area of the windscreen, the JLR system uses the whole ‘screen as a head-up display. JLR engineers say that for track driving, the system could used to display correct racing lines and braking points and even show a virtual row of cones.

Also being worked on for the future are hand gesture controls – which JLR demonstrated for opening and closing a sunroof – and a 3D instrument cluster, which was particular effective in sat-nav mode, showing a live 3D simulation of the immediate streetscape.

JLR says future cars will also sync with the driver’s phone, using future appointments, traffic and weather reports to configure the car automatically. This could see a car being pre-warmed in cold weather, with the heated seats and steering wheel activating automatically. Individual driver preferences for driving position and entertainment sources will also be activated automatically. 

Future cars could also take into account the driver’s mood and wellbeing, using information from a smart watch or wristband.

Join the debate


9 July 2014
What really is the point in putting all this new technology in a car, its hardly a fighter jet is it?
all it will do is make the driver take even less attention on the road, and what will happen when it gets a few years down the line, when the fourth or fifth owner takes the car, are they sure that this sort of tech is realiable and failsafe, i think not.

10 July 2014
I'm torn on this. On the one hand, it is expected to have your car communicate with your phone for music, contacts, etc these days and that's surely a good thing. Because it allows you to concentrate on driving. On the other hand, a lot of this technology does the opposite to what it intends to do - it over-complicates things to the point of distraction. The exact opposite of its intended function. Unfortunately car-makers are all gearing themselves up for autonomous driving within the next 10 years so this is only going to become more common. DOWN WITH THIS SORT OF THING!

10 July 2014
Looks like an old video game. Very tacky.

10 July 2014
....of this technology. The idea of having a projection of the car size ahead of the vehicle would be useful when off-roading for Land Rover or the ability for the car suspension to set itself up for off-roading by knowing the topography of the terrain ahead, but is this really useful for driving on road. The idea of head-up displays is good, the easier it is to see sat-nav directions and the vehicle speed etc in the driver's eye line is excellent, but the rest of it would surely just be a distraction. My worry is that all this extra technology is just something extra to go wrong and if it does it gets too expensive to repair with the result that more and more cars will be scrapped early on in their lives. Citroen have the right idea with the C4 Cactus : K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

10 July 2014
I've often thought that the ability to project a line that you could follow for sat nav directions onto the windscreen would be a good thing, rather than small HUD set-ups or a separate dash-mounted screen. The rest of the stuff being talked about is just fluff. Looks like Tron.

10 July 2014
Yes please. Sign me up for a grands worth of kit to show me how wide my car is. Can you also please project my Facebook and Twiitter feeds onto the road so that I can interact socially with my many like-minded 'friends' without taking my eyes off the road. Please also show me where I can get a full frontal lobotomy so I can be like the other drivers of these cars, like, you know, wow, that's so cool. Seriously Jag, there must be better uses for upcoming tech. If not, then please just leave it out.

10 July 2014
"Because the light is sent from the power units along a fibre optic cable, future laser headlamps could be much small and less bulky than today’s units, opening the way for a significant shift in car design. Reducing the bulk of headlamp units could also improve pedestrian safety."
They said that about LED lights and whats happened since their introduction ? The total opposite - headlights are bigger than ever and there are now usually loads of extra lights emblazoned on the front aswell, more often than not, large and tacky, in a few years I wouldnt be surprised if the entire front of a modern car had eveolved into one big light !

10 July 2014
Once the self-driving cars come on stream the technology will help the car but it won't need to be visible to the driver making it moot. Some neat gizmos that could help some in the real world but those who need it will go straight to the driverless car once they can afford to do so.

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