One of the most exciting technology solutions on the horizon today is the introduction of automated vehicles. The idea that you can sit in your car and be driven somewhere with ease will transform how we use cars, how they are designed, and how cities are planned. It could change everything. However, it will be a long time before these changes take place. We need to wait for automated vehicles to become affordable enough for them to be ubiquitous before we can truly trust them on the roads. In addition, we need the communications networks to be up to speed to support low latency connections across entire road networks. This does not mean that we will see no innovation in the transport sector until that point. One of the most amazing innovations is just around the corner and it will change how you look at your windshield forever.
If you think about driving, it is safest if you are looking through the windshield at all times. The most dangerous moments occur when we take our eyes off the road to look at our phone, change the air-con, play with the radio, and more. New innovations mean that this may not be a problem for much longer as numerous companies are investing in R&D of Heads Up Displays.
The idea of displaying information on the windshield is not that new. Fighter pilots have used this technology for years as the seconds they lose by taking their eyes off the windshield can mean the difference between life and death. Based on road accident statistics and how many accidents are caused by using mobile phones, it appears the same is true of car driving. In the US alone there are 1.6 million accidents every year caused by mobile phone usage. Clearly, something has to change.
Today there are already solutions in place. Apple offers CarPlay and Android has Android Auto. While these solutions are better than using a mobile phone, they are far from perfect. They simply send information to a screen under the windshield that is, to be honest, not that easy to see.
HUD designs have been in place but so far they have only shown information on a screen that is smaller than a tablet. So instead of really highlighting the information on your windshield, they are simply projecting it on a different tiny screen, again not that useful.
A true HUD will utilize far more of the windshield area to show you better information. Lexus has been leading the way in bigger designs and in 2018 rolled out a display that showed navigation, speedometer, as well as some new safety features like a pedestrian warning system. This is a good start. The information screen is as large as the information panel we are all used to and if it works it may mean that we can simply remove that panel in the future.
Other car companies like Jaguar and BMW are testing solutions as well. These appear to use augmented reality to show you exactly when you need to switch lands and by highlighting the actual lane on your windshield. They will show you detailed navigation and driver information and of course can be used to change your Spotify track. Yet it does appear that for now these are limited to high-end releases and luxury cars.
For those that want a HUD without paying for an expensive car, there are some solutions in place that basically place a transparent screen over your windshield that connects with your car information. At present these look pretty chunky and unappealing but we expect them to make strong improvements as well. Stay tuned for further developments in this exciting space.