Heads-up displays becoming mainstream?
Navigation and dashboard data projected directly onto the lower edge of the windshield
Fighter pilots and video gamers are familiar with heads-up displays (HUDs) that overlay critical information on your field of view. With a HUD, there’s no need to glance down to a control panel to get updated. These displays are slowly working their way into cars and even helmets and eyeglasses.
It takes about a second to get information from your car’s dashboard, although we do it so routinely most people wouldn’t think they need that long. Checking the dash requires taking your eyes off the road, refocusing from far to near vision, locating the information, processing the data, and returning your eyes to the street. If you’re moving at 60 miles per hour, the vehicle will have traveled 88 feet in that time — plenty of time for a hazard to pop up and become too close to avoid. If that data is included in a HUD, it takes less than half a second, and your eyes never leave the road.
A second is probably an optimistic figure for an officer who is monitoring not just his dashboard instruments, but also a mobile computer display and the indicators of other emergency equipment. Given the number of fatalities in patrol car accidents, anything that improves situational awareness is a plus.
Coming in 2012
Another HUD application is from Making Virtual Solid, called Virtual Cable. Virtual Cable puts some of the dashboard data onto the windshield, but its name comes from a projected overhead “cable” that is superimposed on the road from the driver’s perspective. The driver sees his mapped path extending to the horizon, giving plenty of notice for lane changes and turns.
HUDs were an option on some 1980s model GM products, but were based on conventional cathode-ray tube displays that didn’t work all that well in cars. TFTs are in common use in laptop displays and are much more car-friendly.
As display technology matures, you may see a time when the windshield will be capable of displaying everything now appearing on your mobile computer. Corning has a short video showing the capabilities of some of their special-purpose glass products either available now or in the R&D pipeline.
This technology is new, and right now fairly expensive. As it matures, it will get cheaper and more refined, and you can probably look to see it in police package vehicles within three years.
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