One of the coolest driving innovations to help a driver keep his eyes on the road is the “head up display,” a feature that makes driving safer by projecting key information on the windshield.
The system can display information like miles per hour, cruise control speed and safety features like lane departure warning and forward obstruction warning.
The transparent display provides information to drivers without requiring users to look away from their usual viewpoints. The origin of the name stems from a pilot being able to view information with their head positioned “up” and looking forward, instead of angled down looking at lower instruments.
Head Up Displays Evolved from Aviation
First patented by the Royal Air Force during World War II, the head up display enabled the de Havilland Mosquito to fly faster and easier at night, said Road and Track magazine.
Modified for cars, a head up display projects a transparent image on the vehicle’s windshield showing the kind of information the driver would normally get off the vehicle’s dashboard. The virtual image displayed on the windshield appears to be floating around the front edge of the hood.
The information is displayed in the driver’s line of sight so the driver doesn’t have to look away from the road to find out what he or she needs to know.
Premium marques like Audi and BMW are all offering them. But head up displays are also trickling down into the mainstream. They can also be useful in conditions of bad visibility, like fog, because they’re usually connected to systems that use radar and infra-red sensors, so the driver can tell where the road markings are, according to Autobytel.
Vehicles with built-in head-up displays may have a special film or optics-enhancing plastic on the windshield glass to prevent image distortion or secondary reflection.
Different systems may display different functions. For example, the Lexus system can show radio stations and fuel usage while the Cadillac system and several others project an impossible-to-ignore red warning when the forward collision alert activates.
Used cars brands that include the the head up display include certain Buicks, Chevrolets, numerous BMW models, Ford Shelbys, Toyota Prius, certain Volvos, Mazdas, Jaguars, Maseratis and Mini Coopers, to name a few.
Some car experts believe the feature will eventually become as standard as Bluetooth.
Head Up Apps are an Alternative to Factory Installation
If your vehicle doesn’t have head up technology, you can always download a free app that does pretty much the same thing at no cost, according to HowtoGeek.com.
The apps work by “brightly displaying a reverse image of your speed (tracked through the phone’s internal GPS) on the windshield when the phone is mounted on top of the dashboard itself,” HowtoGeek.com reports. Your windshield then reflects this image back to you with any information the app collects.
There are also third-party head up displays, which work by linking to either your phone’s internal GPS or finding a signal of their own from a satellite. The device then estimates how fast your car is going at any given time, and displays the information back on the windshield. The information and display are less sophisticated.
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