As the proportion of older drivers in the world’s leading nations grows, carmakers are finding new avenues for the technological advancement of safe driving. Taking a new angle on the head-up display (HUD) concept, General Motors is working on a prototype windshield system that enhances the driver’s view of the world instead of obstructing it with overlaid information.

Designed specifically for the needs of older drivers, GM’s new enhanced windscreen system picks out details that might be missed, especially in low-visibility situations, and highlights them with brightly drawn laser outlines. An example application would be driving a winding road on a foggy day - conditions that make it hard to pick out the edges of the road, even for drivers with perfect vision.

The GM system uses a combination of computers, cameras and a laser drawing system to see through the fog and figure out where the edge of the road is. It then projects its curve onto the windshield, so that the line integrates with the driver’s view of the world outside the car - effectively augmenting the driver’s natural visual ability. The laser itself isn’t actually visible, so it won’t distract other drivers as it shoots out the window. Instead, the windscreen is coated in a material that reacts with the invisible low-power laser beam in the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum, generating visible patterns on the surface of the glass, reports the Associated Press.

Technology like GM’s windshield display will never be able to completely compensate for the poor vision or other restrictions, and it remains in the experimental stage at this point, but it has the potential to safely extend some drivers’ years behind the wheel - and that’s a goal worth working for.

Other approaches have also been taken in recent months, with GM’s European Opel division revealing its forward-looking camera system that is able to detect and interpret street signs, speed limit signs and other important road-side features and warn the driver of their presence.