Whatever Happened To Head-Up Display?
The anti-driver distraction technology is down but not out.
Web2Carz Senior Writer
Published: November 8th, 2011
In this age of ever-increasing driver distraction, one would think that Head-Up Display (HUD)—the system that makes instrument-panel data (speed, RPM, mileage, etc.) appear on a driver’s windshield to allow the driver to keep their eyes on the road—would be in every car. But despite nearly 25 years of in-car development, this WWII-era technology is only available in a handful of cars.
HUD was first utilized in aircraft, first on gun sights, where it made it easier to aim at a moving target, and later on cockpit windows. General Motors was the first auto manufacturer to develop HUD for cars, in 1988. By the late 1990s many Buicks were equipped with HUD, and in 2003 BMW introduced their system to Europe.
But HUD never really caught on with the average car buyer, and once Buick introduced its noise-reducing QuietTuning system, which involved a coating that made the windshield less reflective, the system was phased out.
That doesn’t mean HUD has gone the way of the in-dash ashtray, however. With in-car technology becoming increasingly complex, automakers are again turning to HUD to keep drivers safe.
GM is currently developing a second-generation HUD system that, unlike current HUDs, which project data onto a small portion of the windshield, would use the entire area. This system would incorporate in-car cameras with night-vision and GPS technology to help driver’s navigate in low-visibility environments; showing where the road edges are in thick fog, or highlighting speed limit signs, for example.
If you can't wait to have HUD in your car, there is—what else—an iPhone app: The iHUDisplay & Speedcams app turns your iPhone into a mini HUD. Place it on your dashboard and you can see your speed, direction and the current time reflected on your windshield.
The main drawback of this app, aside from the rapid draining of your iPhone battery, is that it pretty much only works at night. On the plus side, it claims to detect speed and traffic cameras and radar traps, which is a pretty big plus, if it works.
GM hasn’t announced a timeline for when their second-generation HUD will be available in cars, but given the complexity the multimedia systems coming into cars (i.e MyFord Touch and UConnect), the sooner the better.