New Technology Lets You Keep Your Eyes on the Road

Imagine you’re in unknown territory trying to find an unfamiliar building and a heavy fog is blanketing the road ahead of you. Thick as soup, you can’t see two feet in front of you.  You’re worried about staying safe, let alone finding your destination.

A new technology being introduced into automobiles could be just the solution.  A head-up display (HUD) is projected in front of drivers to easily guide them to their destination without drivers having to take their eyes off the road. HUDs can save lives by keeping the driver’s eyes focused on the road ahead. For instance, in the second that it takes a driver to glance down at a dashboard display, a car going 60 mph can travel more than 90 feet, or about seven car lengths.

While some HUD systems are currently offered in cars, they are relatively primitive.  The driver sees a small display with only basic information like speed and low fuel.  The new HUD systems will project more information and include links to a car’s infotainment system. Further, these systems will deliver large field views for “augmented reality.”  They could show a virtual travel lane in foggy conditions when paired with infrared cameras mounted on the front of the car.  They could also combine with night vision technology to warn of an obstacle in the road such as a disabled vehicle or a deer.

The early model HUDs are currently offered only in a few luxury cars.  In 2012, only about one million out of the 60 million cars produced worldwide included this technology. However, the number of automobiles sold with HUD displays is expected to jump fivefold by 2017 to more than five million units.  According to forecasters, these projections will make HUD displays one of the fastest-growing segments in automobile technology. By 2020, BMW plans to offer HUDs in all of its vehicles, and HUDs typically add $1,000 to the vehicle’s price for consumers.

It will be interesting to watch whether head-up display systems will keep drivers safer and reduce accidents.  Until then, as usual, exercise caution and drive defensively.

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