The HUD, or heads up display to give it its full name, is a screen position right in front of the driver, usually projected on the windshield. It can trace its origins back to fighter jets, where it was crucial for pilots and co-pilots.
Enabling them to focus on everything going on around them and still have the vital information in front of their eyes was the difference between life and death in certain situations. Although HUDs are still far from being standard in modern cars, if you’ve been in a premium or a high-end car from the last, say five years, you’ll be familiar with them.
Although they’re still rather ‘primitive’ in the amount of information they offer, they’re more than useful even in everyday situations. Rather than looking down on the speedo to check your speed, you don’t ever have to take your eyes off the road because you have your speed in real time right in front of you.
How they work ?
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto both aim to minimize distractions during driving, but the truth is they merely mitigate them. Instead of you looking down at your phone, they project their information on the central display or the small screen in your instrument cluster, but as you still have to look down to see what it is you want, it’s not really an effective solution.
This is where HUDs come in. Using a reverse projection system and some glass trickery, the image is displayed (projected) on the windshield. Although minimalistic and small, the current HUDs are unobtrusive and more importantly, not distracting.
Currently, even the largest HUDs measure in at just 7.5 inches. That’s a decent size for a phone, but not nearly enough for a car, especially when you have to display five or more vital information. Lexus, one of the pioneers when it comes to HUDs, is now the first manufacturer to boast about the size of its upcoming HUD, a massive 24-inch display in the new 2018 LS500 sedan.
Stretching as wide as the instrument panel itself, we won’t be surprised if the LS makes do with no traditional gauges. Even if it doesn’t that reality is closer than we thought.
BMW is currently fettling with augmented reality, which is in essence 3D holograms similar to those in Pokémon GO. If you can wait just a little longer, you’re going to be amazed with what’s to come for HUDs. The era of fixed displays is coming to an end. Soon car manufacturers will be able to project the images on the windshield completely independent of a screen or any other limiting factor.
This means you won’t ever have to take your eyes off the road, not even for a split second. Jaguar and Land Rover have been playing around with this idea a few years ago, using advanced HUD technologies to create an invisible windshield which, with the help of cameras mounted underneath the car, helped you see what’s right in front of you. The technology was so exciting Ford was even interested in partnering up and implementing it.
HUDs are about to become a vital aspect of driving a car, and we might be the first generation to fully implement them. Either way, exciting times lie ahead.