Toyota invisibility patent
Mirrors bend light around the pillars, making them appear transparentToyota

It may sound like something out of Harry Potter, but Toyota is attempting to make parts of its cars invisible to help with road safety.

As cars have become increasingly safe in the event of crashing or rolling over, the strengthened A-pillars either side of the windscreen have grown, making it difficult for drivers to see to their sides as they navigate tight corners, roundabouts and junctions.

In some cases, like the 2017 Honda NSX, special-but-expensive production techniques have helped to slim down the pillars while retaining their strength, but in the mass market peripheral vision has become worse.

Step forward Toyota, and a patent describing a way to make a car's A-pillars invisible. Instead of enrolling at Hogwarts for a crash course in Harry Potter's invisibility cloak, the US division of the Japanese car maker intends to use mirrors.

The patent, describing "a cloaking device", explains how Toyota plans to arrange mirrors in such a way that light is bent around the pillars, giving off the illusion of being able to see through them.

Toyota says the patent is for "apparatuses and methods for making an object appear transparent". Drawings included in the patent filing demonstrate how the transparent pillars will help drivers spot pedestrians more clearly, and see around corners at junctions.

While the idea seems simple enough, new technologies described in patent filings are usually a long way from reality. Indeed, companies often file patents for technologies that never see the light of day, yet alone commercial success. So while the idea of cars with clocking devices is compelling, don't expect your next Toyota Prius to be able to disguise itself with strategically placed mirrors.