November 22, 2017

Eyes on the road: head-up displays are changing how we drive

Eyes on the road: head-up displays are changing how we drive

Head-up display (HUD) optical technology was initially developed for military purposes, but its use is on the rise in the automotive industry. According to ReportLinker, the automotive HUD market is estimated to be $759.6 million in 2017. Major manufacturers including BMW, Volvo, Chevrolet, Mazda, Lexus, Jaguar, and Mercedes-Benz are including the technology in their designs.

A case for a smarter windshield

The purpose of head-up display technology is to show data on a window (in this case, the windshield) so that users can keep their eyes on the area of interest (in this case, the road). The primary advantage is that drivers’ eyes don’t need to refocus after looking at the data on the display—which is believed to increase road safety.

Types of head-up display technology

There are several types of head-up displays, but two are most common in today’s vehicle designs:

  • Combiner HUD: A small, transparent plastic disc called the “combiner” is used as a mirror for data display.

  • Augmented Reality HUD: The information appears to be part of the driving environment because it is displayed in the line of sight of the driver.

Leading the way

Continental Corporation’s Automotive Group is designing many of the HUD systems in Europe. According to Continental, “To read an instrument cluster, for at least a brief moment you have to take your eyes off the road… when drivers avert their gaze at a speed of 120 km/h they will be driving blind for about 33 meters. A head-up display shows information exactly where you need it—directly in the line of sight.”

Continental’s head-up display technology alerts drivers with current speed, speed limit information, and lane departure warnings—and features adaptive cruise control and navigation.

Other applications using similar display technology

Like Continental, Daqri creates head-up displays for the automotive industry. But perhaps even more exciting are its professional grade AR technologies including its Smart Glasses and Worksense Productivity Suite. As CNET puts it, “Daqri Smart Glasses are designed for your boss at your future factory.” Daqri calls the helmet “a visionary tool for the 21st century worker.

Outside the factory, there are many other uses for head-up display technology that are more consumer facing. New applications include HUDs in the cockpit, the operating room, inside motorcycle helmets—and even the swimming pool.

Creating a virtual prototype using OpticStudio and LensMechanix can help improve the design process for companies who are integrating HUDs and AR in their devices.

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