The Dawn of Augmented Reality HUDs: BMW Changes the Game with Panoramic Vision

The world of head-up displays (HUDs) is moving into uncharted territory with the advent of augmented reality (AR) displays. These innovative systems not only provide a floating image but add three-dimensional, computer-generated elements that appear seamlessly integrated into the real world as seen through the windshield.

Head-Up Displays (HUDs) in cars are an advanced technology that projects vital driving information onto the windshield, directly in the driver’s line of sight. This allows the driver to access essential data without having to glance away from the road, ultimately enhancing safety and convenience.

One of the most common pieces of information displayed on an HUD is the car’s current speed. This feature allows drivers to monitor their speed without looking down at the dashboard, helping to maintain focus on the road. In addition to speed, HUDs can provide turn-by-turn navigation instructions, helping drivers stay on course without having to glance at a separate GPS device or infotainment screen.

For vehicles equipped with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), HUDs can display the set speed and the distance to the vehicle in front. This feature enables drivers to maintain a safe following distance and react to traffic changes more effectively. Furthermore, HUDs can alert drivers when they are unintentionally drifting from their lane through a lane departure warning system, helping to prevent accidents.

Some HUDs display the current speed limit, helping drivers avoid unintentional speeding and stay within legal limits. This feature can be especially useful in areas with frequently changing speed limits or unfamiliar roads. Additionally, HUDs can warn drivers about potential collisions with vehicles or pedestrians, giving them more time to react and avoid accidents.

HUDs can also provide valuable information about the vehicle’s fuel level and estimated driving range, allowing drivers to plan fuel stops more efficiently. This feature can be particularly useful on long trips or when driving in unfamiliar areas where fuel stations may be scarce. For performance-oriented drivers, HUDs can show engine RPM and even suggest optimal shift points, helping them maximize their vehicle’s performance and efficiency.

The latest development in automotive HUDs is the integration of augmented reality (AR) technology. AR HUDs overlay computer-generated graphics onto the real-world view through the windshield, providing a more immersive and interactive driving experience. Examples of AR HUDs include navigational arrows that appear to hover over the road or virtual lane markers that guide the driver.

While HUDs have the potential to enhance safety and convenience, it is essential to consider their potential drawbacks. Some drivers may find HUDs distracting, and there is no consensus on the optimal amount of information to display. Additionally, polarized sunglasses can interfere with the visibility of some HUDs, and regulatory standards for HUDs have not been established. Like that’s going to stop anybody from turning their car cabins into fighter jet cockpits.

From Aftermarket to Standard Feature

If you go a few years back, you will find there were a fair number of companies working on automotive HUDs. Display Daily saw a few of them at CES in Asia in 2016. Of the companies that were demonstrating automotive HUDs, there’s not much of those products idea left to be found. Astri, the Hong Kong Applied Science and Research Institute, was working on advanced HUD technology in collaboration with other partners to commercialize its research. Shenzhen Dsit Technology is a Chinese company that specializes in producing automotive electronics, had HUDs, but doesn’t seem like that is the case anymore. The list goes on.

Other notable manufacturers of automotive HUDs include Garmin and Navdy. Garmin, who we all know as a GPS and navigation technology company, offered the Garmin HUD+, briefly. This device was designed to work with smartphones and projects navigation information directly onto the windshield. The Garmin HUD+ was going to be compatible with both Android and iOS devices and connect via Bluetooth, displaying turn-by-turn directions, speed limits, and other essential driving information. The app never appeared and neither did the product, biting the dust in 2022.

Navdy was a company that produced an innovative, portable AR HUD. The Navdy device connected to a smartphone and displayed information such as navigation, speed, fuel level, and phone notifications. One of its standout features was its gesture control system, allowing drivers to interact with the device without touching it. However, the company ceased operations in 2017, and its product are no longer available.

Also Sprach BMW

In this rapidly evolving landscape, there isn’t much room for aftermarket suppliers. Not any more. Everyone from Acura to Volvo is providing some sort of HUD. Now, BMW is looking to take automotive HUDs into a new era. Oliver Zipse, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, just revealed the company’s latest innovation: BMW Panoramic Vision. This groundbreaking HUD is set to debut in the first Neue Klasse models, a new line of electric vehicles that pays homage to BMW’s iconic cars from the 1960s.

The Neue Klasse platform aims to set new benchmarks in digitalization, sustainability, and design for electric vehicles. The BMW Panoramic Vision head-up display is an integral part of this vision. The new HUD, which transforms the windscreen into a single, expansive display, offers drivers complete control over the information displayed, while also providing passengers with a fully immersive experience. BMW believes the Panoramic Vision’s innovative projection and the reimagined cockpit will deliver a sense of space and create a unique and exciting driving experience.

A New Era in Automotive Displays

Recently, we talked about Envisics getting a $50 million investment for its holographic AR HUD display technology. Panasonic Automotive has some interesting AR HUD technology. LG and Candera partnered up, not too long ago, to try and do something akin to what BMW is trying to achieve here. The space isn’t oversaturated with companies or startups, mostly due to the fact that it is driven by the big automakers, but it is evolving very quickly. If BMW’s Neue Klasse proves to be a successful model then expect to see panoramic HUDs as a standard feature of a lot of models from different car makers within three years. Cars are the second most expensive purchase anyone makes in their lives. The interior design and layout of a car is just as important a consideration as its exterior, and it looks like that’s where there’s a battle to be fought for the hearts and minds of car buyers.