Is This Smart Windscreen a Smart Idea?
Samsung has recently announced that it is developing a ‘Smart Windshield’ for use on motor scooters, and is trialling it in Italy. It is not really a brand new technology; it uses the same type of mobile connectivity that has already been applied in heads-up displays on cars and other four-wheeled vehicle windscreens. The difference is that information is to be displayed on a motor scooter windshield, and the system consists basically of a smartphone app connected to a projector. The app will project information onto the windshield, giving the rider hands-free access to that information.
Fans of the scheme are hailing it as a logical advance in smart windscreen technology, based on the fact that (for example) satnav and Google Maps directions are much easier to follow if they are projected in front of the rider, than if the rider is constantly trying to look down at a headstock mounted smartphone. This makes the rider safer on the road as it will be less distracting and he or she can keep their eyes on the road better. So, it’s a good idea; or is it?
Critics of the scheme point out that the primary use of the mobile connectivity is to enable riders to receive alerts, texts and messages while on the move, from the one hundred and one apps that users typically have on their smartphones. Having received these alerts, they fear that the riders will then pull out their phones to answer them (the technology only allows incoming messages, it doesn’t allow the rider to respond directly). Samsung point out that there is a facility to auto-answer all these incoming items with a standard response such as ‘not available, scooter riding’ or something similar. They also state that far from being more distracted, the connected riders will in fact be less distracted than the large number of riders who currently use hand-held phones while riding, which is a major problem in some Italian cities, and probably across the rest of Europe too.
A prototype has been trialled on a Yamaha Tricity scooter, and although the connected windscreen sits in front of the rider and is larger than the original one designed for the scooter, the actual display is situated low down, at the location of the dashboard. It isn’t really heads-up at all, it is intended that the rider will look ‘through’ the information, and therefore their eyes will be on the road rather than on their smartphones, as happens now.
Distracted driving by social-media and smartphone obsessed young people is a problem regardless of the type of vehicle, and the development of this smart windscreen is part of a wider project, partially aimed at helping those people to avoid injury. The project has been named ‘Launching People’, but some wags have been unable to avoid adding ‘over the handlebars’ to that name. This looks like one to watch, as it is sure to reach the UK at some point.