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Toyota’s Cloaking Device: New Patent Aims to Make Cars… Invisible?

The goal of keeping drivers safe from injury during a collision or rollover seems to be coming with a significant price: visibility. The roof pillars that run up each side of the windshield are now stronger, but also thicker than ever before, creating a visual barrier and significant “blind spots” for occupants. Toyota’s solution: Give the driver X-ray vision – sort of. Science fiction? Magic? The truth is a bit of both, and this new technology could be available in your next Toyota.

Understandably, the public demands they feel safe and sound when traveling inside a new vehicle. And most love the new technologies engineered into new cars and trucks that help avoid and, if necessary, survive an accident. However, one trend that the public is not in love with is the growing size of “A-pillars”.

“A-pillar” is a term used to describe the roof pillar on each side of your vehicle’s windshield. There are three types of roof pillar and the A-pillar is merely the first. The roof pillar behind the driver door is called the “B-pillar” and the one at the rear of the roof is, you guessed it, the “C-pillar”. A, B, C.

To keep occupants safe during a rollover or collision, those pillars have been getting stronger, and thicker, making outward visibility more and more obstructed.

The blind spots created by these thick vertical beams have become a pet peeve for drivers everywhere, but with safety crash testing getting more and more intense, there’s no way to reverse the trend of thicker roof pillars. Modern vehicles are simply getting more and more “submarine-like” in their efforts keep you safe, and every manufacturer is developing new and innovative ways of dealing with this growing problem.

Outward visibility issues are typically addressed with expensive technologies such as exterior cameras and additional view screens for the driver, but the substantial cost involved in making that kind of technology available to all drivers is prohibitive, so some manufacturers are thinking well outside the box and coming up with solutions that seem out of this world.

Toyota’s latest solution in development tries to beat the problem without the use of expensive “active” equipment such as cameras and view screens. And, after being awarded a patent for their idea, Toyota engineers named it using science fiction lingo straight out of Star Trek: they call it the “cloaking device”.

Although this device doesn’t make a vehicle invisible like the Romulan cloaking device makes space ships invisible in Star Trek, it can fool the eye into thinking at least part of a vehicle is; specifically, those pesky roof pillars blocking your view.

In simple terms, the device uses a series of reflective surfaces (mirrors) built into and around each roof pillar that will interrupt the path of light (or your vision), “bend” it around the pillar and then allow it to resume its original path on the far side. This will then make it seem like you can see right through the thick roof pillar blocking your view.

Toyota’s Cloaking Device is still in the developmental stages, so no word on when or if the technology will make its way into production Toyota cars and trucks, but keep your eyes peeled for more information. This will be one innovation we’re sure you’d love to see (or not) in action!

Oct 31st, 2017