Of all the fanciful/imaginative/ludicrous car technologies dreamt up by James Bond's writers, we didn't expect the invisible Aston Martin Vanquish from Die Another Day to become reality.
And as it turns out, we were right - but Land Rover is working on the next best thing. The British marque's Transparent Bonnet virtual imaging concept makes the front third of the car 'invisible' to the driver, so they can see the ground right in front of their steering wheel.
Magic? Only the magic of the Head-Up Display (HUD), a screen that overlays information on your field of vision.
See the road lurking under your engine
The Transparent Bonnet technology uses cameras embedded into the 4x4's front grille to capture live images and feed them back to a large HUD in front of the driver.
Although the notion of a HUD is nothing new – the upcoming Mini Cooper S features a similar system that displays speed and sat-nav instructions – Land Rover’s use of such an expansive system is. For one thing, most HUDs overlay information over a smaller proportion of your vision as, say, Google Glass does. The Transparent Bonnet's HUD is gargantuan by comparison, both physically and based on the amount of your field of vision that it occupies.
The other information displayed on the HUD - such as a digital compass, steering position, yaw and gradient information - is something we're already familiar with from existing Discovery and Range Rover models. We would expect more advanced off road-centric read-outs to be included should the Transparent Bonnet technology get the green light, as there's much potential to having an array of cameras covering this portion of the ground.
The technology can be turned on and off as needed, so shouldn't provide too much of a distraction unless you're desperate to see what an extra metre and a half of A303 looks like as you drive over it. We're yet to find out from Land Rover how many cameras are involved, and how the HUD adjusts the image it presents based on the changing perpective of the driver, but we will update this story when we do.
But I live in Reading
The vast majority of Land Rover products sold in the UK rarely tackle anything more perilous than the school run but the British marque has traditionally pioneered world-beating off-road prowess and technology that, fortunately, also has applications in real life.
Imagine, for example, the ease with which you could bump up that raised kerb outside your inner city flat if you could physically see the underside of your car or the simplicity of multi-storey car park exits with this technology enabled. It would also be very good for the health of cats taking a nap under your front wheel. Clever stuff.
Land Rover is yet to confirm which upcoming models will feature Transparent Bonnet but has said that it's the first of a ‘suite’ of new concept technologies to be included in Land Rover’s Discovery Vision Concept car.
The Discovery Vision is built to showcase a plethora of new tech and reveal the design direction of new Discovery models when it goes on display at the New York motor show next week. We'll be there with all the big stories, so make sure you stay tuned to Stuff.