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A Heads up on Head-up Displays (HUDs)

Everyday we get a little closer to the sort of technology you’d find in Back to the Future:
We have tiny computers/cameras in our pockets, voices coming from our dashboards, facial recognition software, robots, and we even created Marty McFly’s self-lacing shoes.

With great technology comes great need to understand what on earth all this stuff does and how it affects us. Head-up Displays, or HUDs are one of those new technologies. You can find them in a some special cars - the newer ones of course. They are super interesting but we all need a bit of understanding around the way they work and their effects on us and the way we drive.

Firstly, What are HUDs?

HUDs are actually used in a variety of ways. Google glasses, for example, are a form of HUD as you view whatever display the glasses are presenting you with without ever having to look elsewhere - you keep your head up. In the case of HUDs in automobiles, the most common form of HUD is one that shows your speed. There is a device on the dash (either part of the car or installed later-on) that projects onto the windscreen, allowing the driver to view their speed without looking down onto the dashboard, hence the name. Alternatively, your vehicle may have a transparent screen the raises from the dash and displays the information.

The projection is transparent so it doesn’t block your view, and the height at which the projection is superimposed can be adjusted to suit your height or preference, unless it is displayed on a raised screen. They are a futuristic feature designed to keep us drivers looking ahead at the road while keeping a eye on our speed - No more “Sorry officer, I didn’t realize how fast I was going, I was too focused on the road”.

What’s so great about them?

As briefly mentioned above, the Heads-up Displays allow the drivers to stay focused on the road and accurately manage their speed simultaneously. The fact that your eyes are kept on the road enables your ability to quickly respond to unanticipated road events, such as something suddenly obstructing your path. 

HUDs could also provide you with a projection of your navigation which, considering the time we can spend staring at our GPS figuring out exactly which exit is the 3rd exit, would be a very beneficial safety feature because we could still keep an eye on the road. 

The benefits, although a short list, can be considered really beneficial, especially considering the large proportion of accidents occurring due to people taking their eyes off the road. If we can remain focused ahead and maintain a safe speed, then the roads should be all the safer for it.

What’s not so great, and how do we fix it?

Unfortunately, with every new technology there always seems to be a few drawbacks, but in many cases those drawbacks are erased with time as we adapt to the new technologies.
According to research done on the Head-up Displays, when the projection is placed higher on the windscreen, driver’s eyes have a tendency to linger on the projection longer than necessary which means their attention is drawn from the road. Apparently, we want our heads up, but not too far up.

As the projection height is adjustable it is recommended that you lower the superimposition to a point where you won’t find yourself staring at it. Also, the HUDs that are displayed on raised screens are already situated in a lower position, hopefully meaning you won’t be so distracted by this fascinating feature. This brings me to the next potentially negative effect of the HUDs found in a study:

This futuristic feature has a novelty effect, just like every other new and exciting feature. People who are inexperienced in the use of HUDs may find themselves playing with the feature or staring at it with fascination, which is distracting. Luckily this is an effect that wears off with time as experienced HUD users were found to be not so easily distracted by the projection.

The last negative effect found was the blending of the projection into the scenery as it is somewhat transparent and therefore potentially difficult to see, depending on the background. Fortunately, this effect was found to have less effect if the projection was lowered. 

Also, in the study the participants were made to only use the HUD to judge their speed, and were not allowed to use the speedometer on the dash. In any real-life situation a driver who found themselves struggling to see their speed would take the ‘old-fashioned’ approach and look at the speed on their dash, promptly solving that temporary issue. 

What can we expect to see in the future?

Automobile manufacturers are already expanding on the current types of HUD for future Automobile technologies. They are presently proposing a full windscreen HUD, utilising augmented reality which is mildly intimidating in the opinion of some, but perhaps, like any new technology we will learn to understand it and learn to adapt for the sake of the benefits they present in our lives. Otherwise some logical genius will point out the issues through thorough research and testing - as with every feature in cars that can affect safety.

So, what do we think?

The Heads-up Displays do come with benefits that can prevent accidents in the age of intense traffic and Navigation systems. Anything that keeps our eyes on the road is a plus. If you think the displays can be too distracting you can lower the display (or pick a display that is a little out of the way such as a raised screen) or you can say “Hey, this isn’t for me” and look at the dash like our forefathers (yes we will be saying that one day).

A Heads up on Head-up Displays (HUDs) Reviewed by Brandon on 4:18 PM Rating: 5

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