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Volvo wants to make the whole windshield a smart AR display

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Over the last several years, there has been a significant push in the automotive industry to prevent distractions that force drivers to look away from the road to operate their vehicle’s systems. This drive has ushered in a number of features in modern cars, such as voice control systems for infotainment and other car functions. Increasingly common are head-up displays, that project information like speed and other data in an area of the windshield that the driver can see, without taking their eyes off what’s directly ahead.

Volvo Cars has a long history of debuting new safety technology for vehicles that often trickles down to other automakers over time. The company has announced that it has invested in an optical imaging startup company called Spectralics. Volvo says the company is working on a “promising technology” that the company admits is at an early stage of development. However, the new technology could make vehicles much safer and help to improve the in-car experience for drivers.

Spectralics is working on a thin optics film that can be applied to see-through surfaces of all shapes and sizes, such as windshields and windows in of a car. The film is a multi-layer thin combiner (MLTC) that allows imagery overlay on windows or the windshield. Essentially, it turns the entire windshield surface into a transparent head-up display with significantly more capability than any HUD available in vehicles today.

As Spectralics explains it, when its MLTC is used on a car’s windshield, it creates an extra-wide field of view for the digital overlay, in the process providing drivers a sense of distance with virtual objects superimposed on the real-world environment. The technology could include advanced filters for in-cabin sensing, blind-proof front-looking cameras, and digital holographic projections. Volvo only offered a single image with the announcement that it invested in Spectralics, though it’s enough to get us excited about what could potentially come to future models should the investment pay off.

It shows a windshield able to highlight road markings, signs, and any potential obstacles in the road. The overlay, for example, highlights a moose potentially in the path of the vehicle on the left-hand side, and shows speed and other vehicle data along the bottom of the windshield. The promise of blind-proof cameras seemingly indicates the film would be able to take information from cameras able to see in the dark or fog, and overlay their imagery on the windshield.

It’s easy to understand how this capability could benefit drivers, particularly in extremely dark areas or in dense fog. Driving in fog is one of the most hazardous conditions drivers face as visibility can be limited severely. Another big benefit of providing imagery from cameras would be in whiteout situations during intense snowstorms. For those who have never driven in extremely heavy snow, it’s often impossible to see very far in front of the vehicle. Stopping could mean being stranded in the mountains without assistance, not to mention potentially being rear-ended by other drivers on the road.

Volvo’s investment was made to the Volvo Cars Tech Fund. The Head of the fund, Lee Ma, said the investment results from the company’s successful collaboration with MobilityXlab and DRIVE; Ma says that the fund believes Spectralics’ technology could set the standard for next-generation displays and cameras. As interesting as the technology is, some significant questions are unanswered at this time.

One of the biggest is how expensive the technology will be, and how easily – if at all – it can be transferred to another windshield during a replacement. That’s a burning question for those who live in cold-weather states, where roads tend to deteriorate rapidly. Anyone living in a cold-weather state like Colorado, for instance, knows that the thawing and freezing action of water seeping into cracks in the road tends to cause the roadway to break down in relatively short order.

Couple that freeze and thaw cycle with intense traffic, and lots of small pebbles and gravel are constantly being generated. They’re routinely thrown into the air at high speed by vehicles traveling over them, meaning an extremely high likelihood of a broken windshield. Frequently extreme differences in temperatures at night and during the day, meanwhile, also mean that what starts out as a small chip that could be easily repaired in the morning, can sometimes be a crack running across the entire windshield by the afternoon.

How much this type of technology would increase the price of the windshield will be a barrier to the technology. Many automotive insurers won’t write traditional glass breakage coverage in cold-weather states, because broken windshields are so common. USAA, for example, won’t write a no-deductible glass breakage plan as you can get in warmer states like Texas. Instead, it covers a broken windshield on your comprehensive coverage, meaning you have to pay that comprehensive deductible if you want the windshield replaced.

Having recently replaced the windshield on a 2020 Jeep Renegade, the replacement price for a non-factory windshield was around $300. It’s also worth noting that you can be ticketed in some states if you’re driving a vehicle with a crack that runs the driver’s field of view. What that would mean is if, instead of a few hundred dollars, the Spectralics technology pushes the cost of the windshield into the thousands, it could be quite a burden to replace a windshield in a vehicle equipped with technology.

Perhaps the film attaches to a windshield in a way that can be simply removed and applied to the new window, but that is unclear. Another potential workaround for the issue of cracked windshields featuring this type of technology would be to use stronger glass. The glass covering the LCD for smartphones is often Gorilla Glass from Corning, and indeed we’ve seen some vehicles made available from the factory with windshields made of Gorilla Glass that is far more robust than traditional windshield glass. Again, of course, the risk we run with utilizing stronger glass for the windshield is an additional cost. The Spectralics technology is exciting and could make vehicles safer, but we can’t help but wonder what impact it might have on the long-term price of the car.

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2023 Cadillac Escalade V-Series confirmed: What we know of this Super SUV

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Cadillac’s most lavish model is about to get a sports upgrade, with the 2023 Escalade V-Series marking the first time the SUV has worn the badge. While already notorious for its scale, luxury cabin, and general excess, the V-Series flavor of Escalade will add performance to that mix.

Source: Cadillac

Full details of the 2023 Escalade V-Series won’t be shared until spring of this year, Cadillac has warned. These newly-released photos, meanwhile, show the pre-production form of the SUV. Still, it gives us plenty to go on, as does the trajectory of the V-Series line in general.

For Cadillac, V-Series is more than just speed

You can’t accuse Cadillac of underplaying just what a V-badged model can do. “With nearly two decades of racing-inspired prowess,” the automaker promises, “the V-Series designation is reserved for vehicles that encompass the peak of Cadillac performance, bold, distinguished design, and innovative technology.”

The route from V-Series’ founding in 2003 to today has seen a few big changes along the way. Initially intended as a way for Cadillac to compete with Mercedes-AMG and BMW’s M division, it debuted with the 2004 Cadillac CTS-V sports sedan. That managed to score a role in the original Matrix movie series, (specifically The Matrix Reloaded, released in 2003), helping secure the green-light for the second-generation V Series in 2009.

Cadillac stuck with a familiar strategy: big, high-horsepower V8 engines, paired with its Magnetic Ride Control system for a sedan that could flick from luxury cruiser to track hero at the push of a button. By the time the ATS-V arrived in 2015, however, the criteria had expanded. Smaller and more affordable than the third-generation CTS-V – which got the Corvette C7’s 6.2-liter LT4 V8 to play with – the ATS-V packed a twin-turbo V6.

Beyond that, Cadillac attempted to replicate what BMW and Mercedes had achieved, expanding “V” as a broader badge to indicate a more sporting – though not necessarily the most sporting – iteration of a regular model. It tried, and abandoned, the V-Sport trim, and has most recently settled on “V” badged models as being entry-level performance options. The CT5-V and CT4-V are the current examples of that.

Source: DW Burnett / Cadillac

Meanwhile, a new Blackwing designation flags the most extreme examples of V-Series performance. Initially referring to Cadillac’s new Blackwing engine, but since expanded, the trim has so far appeared on the CT4-V Blackwing and CT5-V Blackwing, each produced in limited number.

What we expect from the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V-Series

For the 2023 Escalade V-Series, the expectation is an evolution in performance rather than the outright leap that Blackwing badging would indicate. The current Escalade – now in its fifth-generation – already features a V8 engine as standard. That’s 6.2-liters in size and offers 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. A 10-speed automatic is standard.

2023 Cadillac Escalade V-Series

Source: Cadillac

They’re not small numbers, but then again the Escalade is not a small SUV. One possibility for an upgrade is the V8 from the CT5-V Blackwing, supercharged and with upwards of 600 horsepower on tap. Cadillac would obviously need to upgrade other components such as the brakes to balance that uptick in power, though Magnetic Ride suspension is already available on the SUV in its current form.

2023 Cadillac Escalade V-Series

Source: Cadillac

To better distinguish the V-Series truck visually, Cadillac has given it a moody makeover. The grille switches to black mesh, and most of the chrome has been deleted in favor of gloss-black trim. The bumpers front and rear, and the side sills, have been tweaked, and of course there are vast blacked-out wheels, too.

2023 Cadillac Escalade V-Series

Source: Cadillac

For the inside, Cadillac is playing it even more coy. A single image previews the “V” badging on the steering wheel, though we’d expect a fair amount of carbon fiber and Alcantara to feature, based on the other V-Series cars. The Escalade already offers a huge, curved dashboard display and plenty of space across three rows, not to mention a whole host of toys to play with.

2023 Cadillac Escalade V-Series

Source: Cadillac

As for 2023 Escalade V-Series pricing, there too Cadillac is saving full details. The current model spirals up to over $109k for the standard-length 4WD Sport Platinum trim, and that’s before you head into the options list. A six-figure V-Series is basically guaranteed, then, as Cadillac takes on well-esteemed (and well-equipped) performance SUVs from its German rivals.

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Brabus 800 Adventure XLP Superblack is taking it to the extreme

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Renowned Mercedes-Benz tuning house Brabus has unleashed its latest creation based on the Mercedes-AMG G63 sport-luxury SUV. It’s the newest variant of the 800 Adventure XLP Superblack, a go-anywhere pickup truck hiding a mighty powerful V8 engine under the hood.

Images: Brabus GmbH
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This Airstream eStream concept is an electric camper with an innovative twist

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Thor Industries, maker of the Airstream and other popular RVs, recently unveiled the eStream electric camper concept. It’s essentially a hi-tech Airstream travel trailer with some nifty innovations hiding underneath.

Images: Thor Industries
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