The Next Big Thing
Is it finally time for head-up displays in cars?IHS Automotive estimates globally, HUDs will grow from 2.7 million units installed in new cars in 2014, to more than 9 million in 2020. Brian Cooley discusses the emerging tech and what carmakers and suppliers need to do to continue the uptrend.
If I mention head up display technology to you, you probably still conjure up an image of something happening in the cockpit of a fighter jet. [MUSIC] The basic idea of a head up display in a car isn't that much different from the military application. It's about situational awareness. At a single point of focus. So looking out the wind screen at the real world you're navigating but then also having information that is elsewhere in the vehicle brought up into that same field of view. The key is the head up part. You're no longer having to glance down at displays or gauges that are away from where the actual task lives. To do that well, an automotive HUD has to go after three core. Selection. Harvesting which information is important and leaving out the rest. Software that interfaces the HUD to the car does that. And there's typically some driver selection ability. Formatting. The information can't just be a bunch of look-alike text or a needless analog gauge representation, neither of which are the most digestible. And projection. The image has to be clean, and sharp in all brightness conditions, and at a focal length of around six feet out. So you're not having to make major swings in your focus as you glance from the road ahead, to the artificial overlayed data in HUD. Now like many technologies we enjoy today, the idea's. Actually not new. Reach back to the late 80s when General Motors Oldsmobile division was offering some models of their Cutlass Supreme with a very simple text based head up display. Today auto makers are doing the majority of the heavy lifting here, factory installed head up displays, in fact you're hearing a lot of buzz from companies like Panasonic, that describe it as, among their most interesting growth businesses. Unlike many of our competitors, we're able to draw directly on our knowledge of the consumer. Our new family of smaller head up displays will enable customers to deploy the technology over a much larger percentage of their vehicles, leading to safer and less. Distracted driving experiences. But the after market is also interesting. Not long ago, Garmin introduced about $150 hud accessory that pairs up with a Garmin app on your smartphone and gives you basic navigation, directions and some other text information about what's going on with the driving experience. Simple but effective and easily added to your car. More recently NAVDY a startup is showing a richer interface to the same basic idea. It gives you a more graphical look at what's happening with NAV, and other things happening on your phone that you might wanna use while driving, while rolling in voice and gesture commands. Demand. The factory-installed market is better understood right now, and it seems poised to really pop. IHS Automotive estimates that globally, we'll go from 2.7 million units installed in cars in 2014, about 4%, to over 9 million in 2020, nearly 10% of all new cars. None of this is exactly ubiquitous. But between the auto makers and the after market we're starting to get to a point where most of us will at least know someone whose got a head-up display in their car. And that kind of awareness. Is key to building the market from there. But all automotive hubs, factory or aftermarket, need to overcome in the next few years are these four hurdles. Bring down the cost. That means the projector, the interface that connects to the vehicle's data bus, and the specially tinted windshield, if it's factory installed. Some cars use a cheaper combiner technology that has a little separate flip-up plastic screen. Bring down the size. In fact, one of the big OEM makers, Panasonic, crowed about how they've brought down the size of the projector. Create relevance. Most drivers just don't understand the potential of a HUD, so getting them to ask for one or prefer one in the showroom will not happen until that takes place. Some car makers are actually thinking about getting rid of that center screen in the so-called center stack and moving that information solely into a HUD. That's forcing the issue. And finally, having patience. The head up display is somewhat like a smart watch in that it doesn't bring new functions to the vehicle, bu tit brings a whole new way of interacting with existing ones. That tends to take a little longer for consumers to embrace, and to get excited about. Now the future of HUDs is interesting, and basically bigger. Look what Audi's doing with a three panel motif. One in the center and two on the sides of the windshield, to really move just about any piece of info-tainment around and using gesture control. At Mercedes innovation center in Silicon Valley, we've seen a single full immersive HUD across the entire windscreen that also uses augmented reality technology. To take the data points. Index of the things on the road and move as those move across the field of view. regardless lf what comes to the market when the heads up display is n no longer something trivial or silly in the vehicle as we really start to push the boundaries of safety and consumption info attainment on the road. They are going to become the next big thing.