• Feb 2, 2012
It doesn't matter what kind of company you are: if you have new tech to show off, you must go to CES. The automakers will always unveil their latest models at the auto shows, but new entrants to the massively exploding infotainment segment are saved for Vegas. Among the growing lineup of automakers exhibiting at the show is Audi. Last year, they brought a HUD (heads-up display) connected to a digital gauge cluster powered by NVIDIA. They also showed off concept MMI controllers--some funky, some very cool. All this was held in a modestly sized, blindingly white booth.

This year, Audi upped the size of everything--including the booth. The team from Ingolstadt brought a 3-screen HUD concept that shows vital information to the driver, entertainment to the passenger, and a safe combination of both for driver and passenger in the center.

So how does it work?

Just like other HUD systems available today, a screen is implanted into the dashboard at such an angle that it causes a reflection onto the glass. Anything shown on the screen is reflected on the windshield within the driver's line of sight. Audi is already doing this on cars like the A6 and A7, but right now only information such as current speed and basic navigation directions are available. Audi thinks their customers want more.

Audi HUD at CES

The 3-screen concept at CES is much more. Three screens in the dash each display separate items. Again, the driver side is all about what the driver needs to know now: speed, next-turn navigation and adaptive cruise control. The center displays items that both the driver and passenger can see, such as climate and audio. The passenger side screen can display anything. The driver is positioned at such an angle that the passenger screen isn't visible, so things like movies and web browsing can safely be put on display. We aren't sure what browsing Facebook during a bright sunny day would look like, but we commend the effort.

And, like the Mercedes DICE concept shown in last week's episode, Audi's HUD is also gesture controlled.

Audi HUD detail at CES

Currently, there are two major issues with HUD systems: cost and size. The screens certainly add a level of cost that only luxury buyers can settle with, but it is mostly an engineering/design challenge. Engineers have to be able to place the screens and ancillary reflecting equipment in the dash without taking up too much space. And designers have to make it all look good. The concept, at this point, won't win any awards for dashboard of the year.

And that is why this is still a concept. Audi is merely looking to gauge customer and media response to the idea. The key to unlocking this technology may be thinner, transparent polymers that can produce brighter images. Whether Audi implements something similar to what we saw at CES, or a more advanced version down the road, we can't wait either way.



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