HUDs head automotive road safety initiatives

An unintended consequence of the increased usage of connectivity and digital technologies within cars has been increased safely issues. Heads-up displays (HUDs) have emerged as a potential viable option in preventing driver distractions from onboard technologies such as the dashboard and centre information displays (CID), according to research from IDTechEx.

The analyst noted in its report, Automotive heads-up displays 2024-2034: technologies, players, opportunities, that drivers currently need to deviate their gaze from the road to look at the onboard diagnostics in the dashboard or the GPS, radio or telephone in the CID. HUDs can give this information projected directly to the driver’s line of sight.

HUDs are actively used in the aviation industry, and their potential to further assist the driver in the most adverse and complicated atmospheric conditions is a reason many stakeholders are advocating for its rapid adoption in the automotive space. The technology can be useful in adverse weather conditions where the road’s visibility is reduced, and can be used to signal important obstacles and areas of concern.

Putting the study into context, the analyst observed that with distracted driving accounting for 25% of all road accidents and young drivers accounting for the largest demographic using technology while driving, it is imperative to look for solutions to this problem.

The report said that there are currently three types of heads-up displays: dedicated combiner, windshield, and augmented reality (AR) HUDs.

The combiner HUD involves projecting an image to a screen between the driver and the windshield. The virtual image is still directed at the driver’s line of sight, but it is often retractable and does not interfere with the windshield’s visibility. The windshield and AR-HUD both have virtual images projected at the windshield and require special coatings to prevent image doubling or ghosting effects. These two types of HUDs are expected to be more immersive, highlighting key obstacles on the road as well as on-board diagnostics.

However, the report expressed a concern about moderation in the number of images and how immersive this technology must be. While it can be important to highlight road obstacles, the analyst cautioned that too many annotations may be detrimental to a driver’s focus on the road. Too many virtual images can significantly hinder the visibility of the road and can, in turn, affect safety, so finding the balance is important.

The challenges in developing automotive HUDs lie in more than just ensuring the technology works accordingly, as it must comply with stringent regulations. Operating temperature requirements are wider than those in other sectors, for instance, so technologies in this space must endure harsher ambient conditions.

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