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Head-Up Displays: New Killer Technology in Cars?

Posted on Sep 18, 2015

Head-up displays will make cars safer, supporters say.  Drivers won’t have to look down at the dashboard to see the speedometer or other information about how the car is operating.  That info will be displayed on the windshield, just like it is for airline pilots approaching a runway and fighter pilots firing at a target.  Video gamers also use it to “target aliens.”

HUD (Head-up Display) was developed by the military.  It is “augmented reality” - that is, it takes the real world around the driver and adds information to it on the windshield.  It displays “… data from GPS, infrared cameras and even mobile phone apps.”  The info “floats” above the hood of the car, on the windshield, right in the driver’s line of sight.

Safety experts are concerned about the lack of standards for HUD.  In an interview in The New York Times (nyt.com), the former chair of the National Transportation Safety Board - Deborah Hersman – said, it’s “…the West Wild West out there in terms of what’s being put into cars.”  

There are no federal regulations governing HUD.  And experts fear American roads will become far more dangerous as drivers focus on restaurant reservations on their windshields, instead of the weather, construction sites, debris on the road and other cars.

 Nearly 5,000 deaths a year are caused by distracted driving, according to the AAA Foundation for Public Safety.  That’s 16% of all fatal crashes.  The agency says teens are the most distracted.  They spend a quarter of their time behind the wheel, texting, sending emails and downloading music, leaving plenty of questions about HUD that need answers.

Will teen drivers play HUD like a video game, changing lanes and speeds to see if it can keep up?  Can parents disable it?  What about optics?  Can human beings change focus from far to near and back again fast enough to stay safe on the road?

Car owners can turn HUD off if they don’t like it.  There’s no word yet about parental control.  As far as the human brain goes, researchers at the University of Toronto looked into how much streaming information it can handle at once.  They found that the more stimulus appearing before the eye, the less the brain assimilates.  In short, lots of information at once “…impaired reaction speed and accuracy.”

The debate about HUD is serious.  Some luxury cars already have it.  Car makers plan to install it in less expensive cars in the next few years.  While supporters of HUD say it was designed to improve safety on the road, the jury is out.  Apparently, only time will tell.

But lawyers at Wayne Wright are certain about one thing - drivers need protection on the road right now.  For more than 30 years the firm has been helping victims who have been injured by the carelessness of others.  Their track record in that regard is outstanding.  Anyone injured in an accident by a distracted driver deserves compensation.  And Wayne Wright delivers.