Driving in the dark usually presents visibility challenges. But what if your windshield could make everything clear for you? A subsidiary of General Motors received a patent for a night-vision windshield filled with tiny fluorescent particles for displaying graphics. The patent has several new ideas not yet used in other windshield displays.

Several companies are working on so-called head-up display windshields, which would show warnings, driving directions and other information directly on the windshield. Such displays are designed to offer driving aids while minimizing how much drivers need to glance down at their dashboards. GM officials first described their research efforts into a night vision-enabled head-up display windshield to InnovationNewsDaily sister site TechNewsDaily in 2010. The patent filing provides some more details about how each capability would work.

The patented GM design uses infrared sensors to give drivers night vision when they look through the windshield. Wildlife, pedestrians, ice on the road and lane markings all have distinctive infrared patterns, according to the patent. The windshield is able to either directly show the driver what it sees in infrared — such as animals in the road, for example — or it can use the infrared data to make suggestions, such as a clear path along a dark street.

The windshield displays graphics by using tiny, nano-size particles that emit bright light when they're excited by a barely-visible or invisible laser beam. The beam aims at the windshield and excites the right particles to create pictures and text, such as arrows showing the next turn or the car's current speed. The particles aim light only at the driver, according to the patent.

The GM patent also covers a brain behind the system. The windshield is equipped with various cameras and a program is able to interpret feed from the cameras to track objects in front of the car and analyze whether objects are in a collision course with the car. The system is also able to recognize certain things, such as pedestrians and other cars with their headlights off.

GM Global Technology Operations received patent number 8,164,543 from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in April. In 2010, Thomas Seder, a GM research and development lab manager and the first inventor listed in the patent, told TechNewsDaily that the company aimed to get some of the windshield features in cars in 2018.

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