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Heads Up – HUDs Are Not Sci-Fi, They Are Real



Head up display Iron Man

Heads Up Displays, or HUDs as they are also known, have been a mainstay of science fiction movies for decades, with films like Star Wars, Avengers and Star Trek featuring them extensively. However, the fact that they’ve been around for year means there is nothing sci-fi about them.

In case you don’t know what a HUD is, they display informational graphics on windshields without requiring users to look away from their usual viewpoints. The technology has been in use by the aviation industry since the 1940, and now it has proliferated into our cars.

In airplanes like the fighter jet Tom Cruise flew in Top Gun, a HUD displays a virtual image on key sections of the aircraft’s windshield, allowing the pilot to focus on flying the plane while at the same time being able to see pertinent information that would normally be viewed on dash-mounted instruments. Just imagine how important the technology is during demanding flight situations, such as military exercises…


While not as demanding as flying a plane, driving a car poses similar challenges. In an age where just about everyone has a connected lifestyles in which we are constantly bombarded with new information via smartphones, a HUD (see example above) makes driving safer by allowing some of this data to be displayed in a convenient location (e.g. our car’s windshield) so that we don’t take our eyes off the road. See? It’s real, practical and definitely not science fiction…

Our friends at Autohaus of Peoria explain that there are two different versions that you can currently get for your car: factory-installed and third-party HUDs.

Factory Installed

HUDs are being actively promoted on certain exclusive cars. For example, the 2016 Audi A7, the Mercedes S55, and several GM vehicles can currently be optioned with HUD technology, making getting less of a hassle.

Some ambitious, forward-looking automakers are already working on next-generation HUDs that not only show simple data like vehicle speed, but can also do such advanced things as highlight street signs, displaying the turns you need to make on the actual road ahead and flashing warning signals when an accident is imminent.


If you so happen to own car that didn’t come with HUD, don’t fret. Several companies offer standalone units that can be installed on your dashboard and project images up onto the windshield.

Most third-party HUDs work by locating satellite signals or by linking to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Unfortunately, with the exception of the Navdy, they are only capable of displaying basic functions.

Unlike contemporary HUDS, Navdy doesn’t project vehicular information directly on your windshield. Rather, it’s a fold-out box that actually contains its own small screen, one meant to sit at the base of where your eyes rest while driving. It comes packaged with a range of apps — e.g. Twitter, Facebook and Spotify — that can be connected via your phone and controlled by quick hand-gestures. See it in action…

As with any technology in its infancy, expect a lot of advancements in HUD technology in the near future. The Navdy system is ambitious, but it illustrates the things that we may find routine in all HUDs in just a few years’ time.

Head up displays are compelling, aren’t they? For instance, the fact that any call, email or text notifications is automatically shown in your field of vision unobstructively while you drive not only makes life easier, but can also go a long way to reduce the risk of collisions.

The next time you’re amazed at all the fancy head-up displays in the next sci-fi movie you watch, just know that they are nothing special and that you can get one for your car.

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