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Cooley On Cars
Car Tech 101: The future of head-up displaysHead-up displays are starting to show up everywhere. Brian Cooley tells you why HUDs may be the next revolution in car tech.
[MUSIC] Most of us know them courtesy of the pentagon. The head up display. But in the car, they're actually after the same thing. Providing situational awareness. It really is projecting a transparent image, but that image is also focused out in the distance. So then when you view information the road stays in focus at the same time so everything is within your field of view. The automotive hud actually dates back to the late 80s. The old Cutlass Supreme had a very simple one, a very crude one. By the late 90s we saw a colored hud on a Corvette. And in the late 2000s, they really came into their own. We started seeing some really nicely rendered ones on BMWs, in particular. With all kinds of interesting infographics and really sharp colors. Todays HUDs give you glanceable access to a fairly common set of information points. First off is speed. They almost all do that. Navigation prompts are very common, certainly when destination is entered. RPM shows up on some cars that have an advanced sports profile. A few show g forces, again. This is a performance car thing. Now generally askewed in HUD design is information that is not mission critical to the job of driving. So don't look for media information, meta tags about your music and such. You don't need that in front of the road. Climate settings ditto. And fuel temperature or other gauge indicators other than speed and RPM [MUSIC] So far still live on the instrument panel. [MUSIC] One of the biggest changes in HUDs is not in the HUD itself, but in the way they're being adopted. This is a big deal. This year, 2014, some 38 models of cars are available in the U.S. that have a HUD. It's either standard or optional. That's nearly three times the number of cars available with a HUD five years ago, according to. It's a bellweather number, it's not entirely watershed. [MUSIC] And there's an aftermarket. In a country where 16 million new cars are sold each year, but 230 million cars are on the road, this is important. Not long ago, Garmin had a unit that you'd sit up here where a factory hub would go. And it would give you a very text-oriented readout, largely around navigation, of course. Startup Navdy is bringing a much richer version of that idea to market soon. Theirs is going to deal with media, communications, as well as nav, of course, and do it with gesture recognition as well as voice command. Do you use hand gestures and your voice to control it [MUSIC] Read new text. There's a major problem with many of us being addicted to our phone, and, you know, not wanting to stop using our phone while, while we're driving a car. So we really wanted to make using your phone in, in the car dramatically better and more intuitive. But also far more safer. And we think, you know, the head up display technology is a key part of the answer to that problem. [MUSIC] The barriers that HUD technology are conquering in the dash, are largely three. First their size. The space behind you gauges, where the projector needs to live is tiny. Hot and under high demand by a lot of other stuff, but the tech is getting smaller or lives on top of the dash. Then there's cost it's coming down as makers of the core technology are gambling on mass manufacturing given the efficiencies we've seen before. And the after market tech is arriving in the few hundred dollar range. And there's comprehension. Consumers are becoming aware of what a HUD can do and are developing a visual information appetite that it needs to satisfy. You can thank a lot of this to the smart phone and tablet revolution of the last decade. [UNKNOWN] Now the end game on HUD is to make them a primary display, not a secondary or in many cases nonexistent display today. And then that logically leads to getting rid of other displays. This LCD in the center console. This dashboard in front of you. The instrument panel. Maybe those don't need to be there at all. It frees up designers to do perhaps more interesting things, or more contextual things with the information on our cars. More car tech demystified right now at CNETOnCars.com, click on Car Tech 101.