See-Through System turns view-blocking vehicles transparent


October 17, 2013

An LCD built into the driver's windshield allows them to "see through" the bus that they're behind

An LCD built into the driver's windshield allows them to "see through" the bus that they're behind

Nobody likes being stuck behind a large, slow-moving vehicle on the highway. Not only does it hold you up, but it's also difficult to see around, in order to check whether or not it's safe to pass. Prof. Michel Ferreira and his team from Portugal's University of Porto, however, have come up with what could someday be a solution to that problem. It's an augmented reality system that lets drivers see right through the vehicle that they're following.

The technology is known as the See-Through System, and it works – or could work, in its finished form – as follows ...

Large vehicles such as transport trucks and buses are equipped with a forward-facing webcam on their windshield. Cars, meanwhile, have a transparent LCD screen built into their windshield. When a driver gets stuck behind one of those bigger vehicles, they have the option of wirelessly receiving a live video feed from its windshield camera. The transmitted footage is displayed on the car's windshield LCD in such a way that it lines up with the actual through-the-glass view of the back of the larger vehicle.

As a result, the driver is able to see what the road in front of the blocking vehicle looks like, in the position that the vehicle occupies on the road.

So far, the system has been tested in both a driving simulator, and on an actual vehicle traveling on the road. While it definitely shows promise, there's currently still a 200-millisecond delay in the video transmission. That might not seem like much, but as pointed out in a report in New Scientist, it's enough to make an oncoming car appear 10 meters (33 ft) farther way than it really is, if both vehicles are traveling at 90 km/h (56 mph).

The See-Through System has been in development since at least 2010, although it gained new attention when it was presented at the International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality this month. It's demonstrated in the video below.

Source: Instituto de Telecomunicações (paper) via New Scientist

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Very ambitious with a lot of single points of failure. The burden being largely on the driver of the bus to keep his camera equipment clean and functional. Additionally, the bobbing window can be distracting in trying to keep a steady distance from the bus.

Would a simpler idea not be to mount a small forward facing narrow field of view camera on the outer edges each wing mirror with permanent 2-4 x zoom. Small LCD in the car somewhere to view both. It would give the driver that additional 40-60cm to peek at the road ahead. An even smarter system would turn the cameras relative to the orientation of the wheels so you can look into bends when overtaking.


I would rather just stick with the mark 1 eyeball.


Wouldn't it be simpler to just mount a large LCD on the back of the bus, perhaps with slat/shutter system overlaying it to reduce the viewing angle of the screen so that you only see what's ahead when directly behind (like the slats on some traffic lights)? It'd be useful for all road users including cyclists and pedestrians.


Most large vehicle's drivers sit higher up and can see farther down the road. Most large vehicles stop slower than cars. How often are large vehicles rear-ended by cars? How about you put this tech in the blind spots of cars, like each pillar.

Aaron Garrett

I think they're over thinking the problem. A simpler solution would be to mount a screen on the back of the bus showing a vew of the road ahead of the bus - no special intervehicle comms, no special windscreen on the following car, just the same result for any old car or motorbike that is stuck behind the large vehicle. If it makes overtaking the large vehicle safer, then those large vehicles are less likely to be involved in accidents and there is your reason for instalation.... I think the technology is fantatic, but it pays to remember the KISS priciple - as it will result in simpler, cheaper, more reliable and robust systems.

Andrew Larmour

Great idea but if it's a webcam on a dash I think the driver behind will end up seeing all sorts of images that are not the road in front of the vehicle. I'll leave it to your imagination but needless to say it requires everyone to be on their best behaviour.


Even IF the idea is deemed valuable enough, it requires wide acceptance in order to do anything. By the time it could possibly achieve that much popularity, most cars & trucks will be driving themselves without help from the occupants.


Why not follow what the highway code recommends? -Back off from the larger vehicle to allow better visibility?? Or does that seem too much like a step back to basic driving skills? More patience and sensible risk management!

Dewi Owen

And if they hack it to show a open road and there is a lot of oncoming cars, who lives, who dies and who gets sued


How much will the subscription to the service cost per year?

A GPS in "3D" view is like having the ability to see through obstacles like mountains and around corners. Very useful when driving in mountains and canyons where the roads are all twisty.

Much more useful than the generic curve and crooked road signs because the GPS display is much closer to the actual shape of the road.

Gregg Eshelman

Or how about a personal drone that constant follows your car at at speeds :-P and streams you the aerial footage. Bet it would show you a whole lot more than just one big truck that is blocking your way.


This idea would last about a week in the real world before some idiot talking on his 'sail fawn' either decides the truck is not really there at all or believes the pic implicitly and drives 'through' the hole in the truck - like the fool who decided "cruise control" meant he could walk back into the campervan and make a cup of java.

The Skud

I wonder if it might be possible for one truck to receive (intercept and retransmit) another's transmission until the car driver "saw himself" in front when driving around a large roundabout? That could freak you out!

The Skud

Aaron, I've personally encountered many situations where the driver of a big truck or van suddenly comes to a full stop because the driver was not paying attention to the road. I frankly don't trust people I don't know, and would much rather take my chances with a live video feed instead of leaving myself at the mercy of the poor driving skills of a stranger in front of me. I've also seen plenty of sedans that have rear ended big trucks. The sedan was of course all but totaled, but the truck was in perfect condition because the truck was raised, and so the bumper didn't match up with all the other bumpers on the road. But you're right, most large vehicle drivers are higher up and can see farther down the road, at the cost of everyone else's visibility.

This devise is going to help prevent accidents. I hope the truck drivers are okay with having a camera on their front bumper in exchange for hogging everyone else's visibility, having head lights at eye level to other drivers, having bumpers that don't match up, taking up significant area of the road (great for those trying to get to work and make it through a stop light), etc.

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