Head up display (HUD) technology is set to be the next significant technology to be integrated into GPS automotive navigators. It will follow text-to-speech for announcing street names, speech recognition systems for control and Bluetooth for hands-free phone calls in improving driving safety. A significant proportion of car crashes (22.7%) can be attributed to driver distraction which includes anything that draws the drivers focus of attention away from the traffic ahead. Any technology which helps reduce the time drivers need to remove their eyes from the road inherently improves safety.
The safety rationale for HUD
Unfortunately, current GPS navigators present much information visually requiring the driver to shift their eyes away from the road in front of them while the car is moving. The US National Highway Transportation Safety Administration found that HUDs, which place information closer to the drivers normal line of sight, improve response times by one quarter to a full second. The significance is not that apparent until you consider that this equates to a 25 to 100 ft reduction in available stopping distance at 70 mph.
The evolution of HUD
Although not common, HUD have been with us for a while dating back, in fact, to 1970′s military aerospace applications. HUD automotive applications did not appear until late in the following decade on some General Motors vehicles. They are now more common on luxury models such as BMW, Lexus and Citroen for display of instrument readings and GPS navigation. Telematics Research Group have estimated that by 2011 HUD will be installed in 17% of vehicles sold in the U.S.
How does HUD work?
HUD technology has used a parabolic mirror with an expensive, hot, short lived mercury-based bulb. The development of cheap pico laser projection systems for personal size pico projectors has now pushed forward HUD development with the capability to deliver brighter images, lower power, lower temperature, improved optics and smaller footprint systems. Microvision and Alvis are two companies with such display technologies ready for product integration.
Pioneer and Microvision HUD
In October 2010 Pioneer demonstrated a laser-based HUD prototype at CEATEC (see video below), using MicroVision’s proven PicoP HUD display engine technology. Two months later the companies announced a collaboration to develop innovative HUD display products. Pioneer’s commercial laser-based in-vehicle HUD are likely to be available in 2013. The light source module under development is based on direct red, blue, and green lasers and is expected to eventually replace the 3 individual laser light sources found in the current PicoP display engine. Microvision expects the PicoP display engine utilizing a direct green laser to offer significant commercial advantages in price, size, power, and performance for automotive and consumer high-volume applications.
Update 6 April 2013
Read our introduction to the next generation HUD – the augmented reality windscreen HUD