The Science Behind James Bond’s Invisible Aston Martin
You’ll have to not see it to believe it
It turns out, invisible cars aren’t necessarily the stuff of science fiction and spy movies.
The long-awaited premiere of the latest James Bond movie, No Time to Die, has led many fans to wax nostalgic about Bonds of days past. After all, the film marks the end of the Daniel Craig era, which took the franchise in a more serious, realistic direction – but that also meant far fewer gadgets. And who doesn’t love gadgets? One particularly memorable detail from earlier in the franchise’s history was the use of the Aston Martin Vanquish in Die Another Day (2002), which was outfitted with a cloaking device that allowed it to blend into its surroundings.
When Q first introduces Bond to the car, all he sees is a flatbed truck.
Sounds pretty crazy, right? For the most part, yes. Although the real Aston Martin Vanquish is still an incredibly cool car, with a V12 engine and a lightweight design that’s certainly capable of Bond-level agility, it’s no shapeshifter. But we can’t definitively say that it never will be, because the technology is out there, albeit in very early stages. In 2017, Toyota patented a cloaking device that would allow drivers to see through opaque parts of the car, like the A-pillars to the left and right of the windshield. But before you get too excited, it’s worth noting that this scientific breakthrough won’t really be used to make your car invisible – it’s just to make sure that others aren’t invisible to you.
Here’s how it works: Toyota plans to outfit these semi-disappearing cars with a system of mirrors that can bend light around an area we wouldn’t normally be able to see through. The mirrors, if properly positioned, would make it seem as though obstructive objects like pillars aren’t even there. It’s similar to how George Lucas used mirrors to create the illusion of Luke Skywalker’s floating Landspeeder in Stars Wars: A New Hope (1977). However, Toyota’s focus here is primarily on safety, since the use of this technology would drastically reduce blind spots.
So for now, the futuristic promise of a car like Bond’s Vanquish has yet to be fulfilled. And even Toyota is being realistic about the prospect of making a car disappear completely: earlier this year, the team developing their cloaking technology emphasized that full optical transparency is “still far-fetched,” although a great deal of progress has been made towards creating that effect on a smaller scale. Which means we won’t be sneaking up on bad guys in an undetectable Aston Martin any time soon – but hey, we might be able to avoid that jaywalking pedestrian on the way home from work.