How exactly does Land Rover’s ClearSight tech work?
Almost exactly five years ago at the New York auto show, Land Rover created quite a stir with its “Transparent Bonnet” virtual imaging concept, displayed on the Discovery Vision concept. That technology is at long last debuting in the 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque and making lots of things disappear—things between the screen and the road and things that block your rear view. Here’s what you need to know about Land Rover’s new ClearSight technology.
Read our Evoque First Drive right here.
It’s the dash, firewall, and drivetrain that disappear
The concept utilized an elaborate head-up display spanning the whole lower half of the windshield so that the virtual image made the hood appear transparent. A head-up display that big is hard to project (or at least crazy expensive), and in any case, lots of shorter drivers would probably have struggled to see up over the dash and through the “transparent” hood. The new name, ClearSight Ground View, recognizes the fact that the production system doesn’t try to make the hood disappear. Instead it displays on the standard central dash screen, providing a view down through the dash, firewall, engine, transmission, and transfer case to see the ground passing under the tires.
3 Cameras, 1 image
It’s amazing how computers can stitch images from cameras mounted at very different locations. Here, they’re combining two wide-angle cameras pointing mostly straight down and mounted under the side-view mirrors with a third grille-mounted camera aimed forward. Of course, the image of what’s passing under the wheels can only be generated after the vehicle has pulled forward far enough for what the grille camera saw to have passed under the tires, after which you can come to a stop and the image remains. Reverse, however, and the display reverts to the rear-view camera, and then you’ll have to drive forward far enough to get that under-tire view back.
ClearSight by the numbers
The view projected represents everything you can’t see through the hood—28 feet forward, 49 feet wide, and almost 4 feet to either side of the car. You also see the inside of the tires and wheels, and of course they turn with the steering and spin as befits the vehicle’s speed. The system shuts off at 18.6 mph (30 km/h) (above which you’d probably best not be hurling your Range Rover at any blind crests and drop-offs or giant boulders).
Image quality drops at full steering lock
The picture quality is amazing under most conditions, but at one point, we noticed lots of discontinuity in the image when driving through a parking lot at 12-15 mph (19-24 km/h). Turn the steering wheel a lot and the distance covered by the inside and outside wheels varies considerably, which complicates the image-stitching challenge considerably.
ClearSight Rear View makes passengers and tall cargo invisible
Almost as impressive as the dash-penetrating Ground View system is this second-generation camera-based rear-view mirror. A glass mirror gives you just a 25-degree field of view out the back window of the 2020 Evoque, but has the advantage of allowing eyes that are adjusted to an infinite distance out the windshield to stay focused at that length while looking out the back. ClearSight provides double the field of view (virtually eliminating blind spots), but forces your eyes to refocus on an image maybe 1 foot away. But by improving the brightness (to 2,200 candela/square meter—brighter than all current smartphones) and greatly increasing the resolution to 1.7 megapixels (1,600 x 320) on the 9.5-inch diagonal display, ClearSight Rear View may be easier to adjust to than lower-res, dimmer first-gen systems you may have encountered in some GM and Nissan vehicles. By placing the camera atop the roof—in the shark-fin antenna—it’s out of the area where road grime collects, it’s angled to avoid glare, and a hydrophobic coating keeps water droplets from collecting on the lens and fouling the view. Pretty slick.