Technology continues to transform automobiles. Screens, sensors, and semi-self-driving systems now power, navigate, and protect today’s cars and their occupants. Automakers and suppliers are continuing to dream of new ways to improve them, and one place you can see those innovations is at CES in Las Vegas. This year, Bosch arrived with a trick sun visor that’s more than a hard piece of plastic wrapped in fabric – it’s a transparent liquid crystal display that can selectively block sunlight and glare without compromising forward visibility. Bosch calls it the Virtual Visor.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the U.S. cites thousands of accidents every year related to sun glare, according to Bosch, adding that the sun causes twice as many car accidents due to temporary blindness compared to any weather-related condition. Bosch’s solution was to rethink the traditional sun visor, which has been left unchanged for nearly 100 years.
The Virtual Visor is more than just the LCD. It can link with a driver or occupant-monitoring system and then use artificial intelligence to locate and analyse the driver’s face, identify the shadows on it, and darken the section of the display through which sunlight glares into the driver’s eyes, leaving the rest of the visor transparent.
Gallery: New sun visor by Bosch
Early in the visor’s development, the Bosch team working on the project discovered drivers adjust their visors to cast shadows on their eyes. “This realisation was profound,” said Jason Zink, technical expert for Bosch in North America and one of the co-creators of the Virtual Visor.
Bosch will showcase the Virtual Visor at CES 2020 in Las Vegas, where it’s been honoured as a Best of Innovation in the CES 2020 Innovation Awards for the In-Vehicle Entertainment & Safety category. It may not seem like the sun visor needs a reinvention, but as technology advances, new solutions present themselves for things we may have never considered a problem.
Safe eyes save lives: How Bosch engineers are innovating the 95-year-old sun visor
Farmington Hills, Michigan – Bosch is rethinking driver safety and comfort, bringing one of the most overlooked interior components into the spotlight, the sun visor. The sun causes twice as many car accidents as any other weather-related condition due to temporary blindness. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports thousands sun glare-related car accidents each year, and another study indicates the risk of a car crash is 16 percent higher during bright sunlight than normal weather. The traditional sun visor is not equipped to adequately address this safety concern. At best, it blocks some of the sun from your eyes but along with it, some of your view is blocked as well.
Bosch is offering a solution with the revolutionary Virtual Visor, a transparent LCD and intuitive camera, which replaces the traditional vehicle sun visor completely. As the first reimagined visor in nearly a century, Bosch’s technology utilizes intelligent algorithms to intuitively block the sun’s glare and not the view of the road ahead.
“For most drivers around the world, the visor component as we know it is not enough to avoid hazardous sun glare – especially at dawn and dusk when the sun can greatly decrease drivers’ vision,” said Dr. Steffen Berns, president of Bosch Car Multimedia. “Some of the simplest innovations make the greatest impact, and Virtual Visor changes the way drivers see the road.”
The Virtual Visor, which was honored as a Best of Innovation in the CES 2020 Innovation Awards, will debut at CES 2020 in Las Vegas. The Virtual Visor was also named as an honoree in the awards competition, which recognizes products across 28 categories. Virtual Visor received the Best of Innovation for the In-Vehicle Entertainment & Safety category, as it received the highest ratings from a panel of judges that includes designers, engineers and members of the tech media.
A sun visor fit for the future
Virtual Visor links an LCD panel with a driver or occupant-monitoring camera to track the sun’s casted shadow on the driver’s face. The system uses artificial intelligence to locate the driver within the image from the driver-facing camera. It also utilizes AI to determine the landmarks on the face ‒ including where the eyes, nose and mouth are located ‒ so that it can identify shadows on the face. The algorithm analyzes the driver’s view, darkening only the section of the display through which light hits the driver’s eyes. The rest of the display remains transparent, no longer obscuring a large section of the driver’s field of vision.
“We discovered early in the development that users adjust their traditional sun visors to always cast a shadow on their own eyes,” said Jason Zink, technical expert for Bosch in North America and one of the co-creators of the Virtual Visor. “This realization was profound in helping simplify the product concept and fuel the design of the technology.”
The creative use of liquid crystal technology to block a specific light source decreases dangerous sun glare, driver discomfort and accident risk; it also increases driver visibility, comfort and safety.
Innovation from the recycling bin
From the original ideation and concept phase to testing and prototyping, Virtual Visor is a bottom-up solution made possible through the innovation culture established at Bosch. Employees are encouraged to apply lean startup methodologies to confirm customer benefits, market potential and feasibility for new ideas, which are then validated by peers and approved for development.
“We’ve built a culture around empowering our associates by putting them in the driver’s seat,” said Mike Mansuetti, president of Bosch in North America. The Virtual Visor was developed by a team in North America as part of Bosch internal innovation activities. “As a leading global technology provider, we understand that innovation can come from any level of an organization, and we want to see that grow.”