In the automobile industry where technological advancements are rampant, the rat race to innovate certainly brings about benefits for everyone. One of these is the aspect of safety technology; cars have admittedly gotten a lot safer over the years. Volvo is one such automaker you can count on to be safe, if not anything else, a trend dating all the way back to 1959 when they first made the three point seatbelt. Throughout the years Volvo’s namesake has been propelled towards being one of the safest in the entire industry. One of the latest and most recent contribution by Volvo (amongst others, that is) was an investment in Spectralics, an Israel-based tech firm that is currently working on technology to transform the entire windshield into a dynamic heads up display so that the driver’s eyes never have to leave the road.
Currently Volvo offers a Heads-Up Display (HUD) to place information directly on the windshield as an option on its vehicles akin to many new cars of today. HUD technology has in fact existed for a long time now. It began with General Motors who used a very elementary version of a Heads-Up Display, a concept which it had been working on since 1965. Although, they could not launch it onto the market until the 1980s due to patenting issues. Early examples of HUDs displayed digital speedometers, turn signals, and other basic information. Heads-up displays found in cars and SUVs of today are already far apart from the earliest versions, but Spectralis is really taking it one step further.
Currently, the HUD technology that Volvo and other manufacturers offer works by using a projector and series of mirrorsto place relevant bits of information within the driver’s field of view on the windshield, as opposed to viewing the information on the gauge cluster or an infotainment screen. This is a vitally helpful feature as the driver does not have to take their eyes of the road for crucial bits of information.The caveat to this is that HUDs are often quite small and limited in placement due to cost and technological restraints like parallax - a perception issue caused by the positioning of the HUD relative to the driver and the passenger, which could make the HUD more difficult to view. The unit that generates the information is typically built into a car’s dashboard, and then projects the images and data upwards onto the windshield as a reflection.
The tech that Spectralicsis developing however, works by overlaying the windshield with a thin film called a ‘multi-layered thin combiner’. This would potentially allow Volvo to transform the windshield into an augmented reality display, as the film essentially makes it so that the windshield is a transparent display, on which the automaker could overlay information and graphics. This solution would be able to place information anywhere on the entire surface area of the windshield. Simultaneously it could also utilise supporting technology like forward-facing cameras to detect obstacles, street signs, roadways, and other objects in the real world, and then outline them on the windshield for heightened awareness for the driver.
This could potentially be a revolutionizer in the automotive industry, if it comes to fruition. It is important to note that Volvo has previously invested in other forms of HUD technology as well, ones that were quite alluring on paper but never really made it into a production line. At least not yet.