Toyota Patented a 'Cloaking Device' to Reduce Blind Spots While Driving

Wednesday, 16 August 2017 - 7:45PM
Science News
Wednesday, 16 August 2017 - 7:45PM
Toyota Patented a 'Cloaking Device' to Reduce Blind Spots While Driving
< >
Here's something that ought to make the early morning commute a little more eventful.

Toyota, the Japanese car company and occasional robot manufacturer, has recently applied for a patent for "apparatuses and methods for making an object appear transparent", which is basically the coolest thing the company's managed to produce since it got a Back to the Future reunion going. But don't go picturing a bunch of cars vanishing like a ship from Star Trek, because it's not that kind of cloaking device.

Designed for use in Toyota cars, this cloaking device sadly isn't designed to actually make the entire car invisible (so maybe your commute won't feature too many invisible cars ploughing into each other just yet). Instead, this new technology is intended to help give drivers a better view of the road by making certain obstructive parts of the car invisible.

In response to crash safety evaluations, cars are now required by regulation to have fairly sturdy metal beams holding the roof in place - it's better if the entire car doesn't crumple during a crash - but larger pillars means worse visibility for drivers, who find their vision obscured by more and more car, as their windows shrink to accommodate a more protective metal shell.

Toyota's patent is for a method to allow these pillars to appear transparent, allowing drivers that little bit of extra visibility while driving. It's a neat function that should save plenty of neighborhood cats, as well as people, from the dangers of cars' blind spots. All Toyota's had to do to make this work, is making parts of their cars invisible - no big deal apparently.

While the specifics of Toyota's cloaking device aren't entirely clear, it's believed that they'll work in some way by using mirrors, which means, depending on how they work, that there might be other useful applications of the technology for larger vehicles with even worse visibility - for example, if truck drivers could gain a better view of the area surrounding their back ends, the roads would instantly become a lot safer for many drivers.

By and large, experts are convinced that a full cloaking device simply isn't possible. We can see this in the animal kingdom - camouflage works absolutely fine right up into the moment that a creature starts moving, at which point it's very obvious where it is. Even with more advanced technology, it's simply not possible to bend light around a person-sized object in a way that looks convincing or plausible.

Toyota's plans, though, don't rely on perfect camouflage - the car beams just need to be transparent enough to reduce a driver's blind spot while still being sturdy enough to endure a crash and live up to safety protocols. So while it may not live up to Star Trek's fully cloaked spaceships, it will make driving easier.

It'll probably be a long time before we see Toyota's patents in action. With the flying cars and liquid metal engines the company is also currently working on, it seems that the company has a lot of bright ideas about the future.

And speaking of bright, here's hoping they don't also make the sun visors transparent just because they can.
Science News