Toyota's New Off-Road Camera Will Make Your SUV Disappear

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The Multi-Terrain Monitor is set to get a serious upgrade.

Off-road trails are hazardous places, even for the most accomplished trucks and SUVs, but as technology has advanced, the inherent risks associated with tackling tough terrain have been greatly diminished. One of the cleverest inventions in this area is the off-road camera, or as Toyota calls it, the Multi-Terrain Monitor. On vehicles like the Toyota Sequoia, this system allows you to see exterior views that would normally be impossible from the driver's vantage point. The Ford Bronco and Land Rover Defender have similar systems that make it easier to avoid obstacles, but Toyota is now making these off-roaders and their systems seem obsolete with a new sort of off-road terrain monitor that makes the vehicle's body panels practically transparent.

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USPTO
USPTO
USPTO

In patent filings exclusively uncovered by CarBuzz, the Japanese automaker has proposed a system where cameras capture exterior images that are configured to photograph a periphery of the vehicle. With a complete view of the vehicle's surroundings generated by the system, Toyota then proposes that the image is projected onto a virtual projection surface that forms a synthetic image. In addition, this system would be capable of detecting when the vehicle is in an off-road environment and would adjust the image to make it even more informative. What exactly does all this mean, and how would it work? Allow us to explain.

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Basically, this patent filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is proposing that images captured by the exterior cameras be shown on virtual screens that effectively superimpose the imagery over the interior elements of the vehicle. What is not clear from the patent is how these screens would be integrated into the cabin. Would a holographic image be projected? Would screens rise from the door cards and the areas in front of the dashboard? These questions are unanswered.

However the imagery may be conveyed to the driver, the filing suggests that the system would be able to automatically detect when the vehicle is in an on-road or off-road environment using some sort of onboard device. When off-road, the imagery would flip from a realistic photographic view to a "synthetic" view, allowing the shapes of various obstacles to be more clearly defined.

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Infotainment System Toyota

The filing contends that rocks and other obstacles often appear to merge into one another from the vantage point of the cabin, and it becomes difficult to tell where the trail ends and the surroundings begin. With the surroundings rendered in a virtual manner, it would become easier to avoid obstacles like huge rocks. We imagine that the system would show the path in one color and nearby obstacles in another. Of course, it's quite possible that this system could be made available for mass production without the projection surfaces mentioned above, with the infotainment screen providing the imagery that you could pinch and zoom for a clearer view. Then again, the entire idea may prove too complex or expensive for the mass market, but if it does become viable, you read about it here first.

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