Having gone from the C5 Corvette to the bygone Lexus HS 250h to the BMW 7 Series, the heads-up display has entered the "Meh..." phase of technology. To return it to the avant-garde, makers of such displays are working on new and larger applications of the technology that can provide new types of safety information without distracting drivers.

The end-all-be-all objective is a windshield-wide display that can project sufficiently bright notifications such as warnings of pedestrians in the way or road shoulder lines in heavy fog. That is many years away, however; a unit that could do that, using modern technology, would take up half the space behind the instrument panel, create an unworkable amount of heat and need to utilize a sub-optimal arrangement of optics for viewing.

But that is what carmakers are said to be looking forward to down the line, and what suppliers like Japan's Nippon Seiki, the world's largest supplier of HUDs, are working on. The final product would provide an augmented reality environment for the driver with large, bright, high-contrast images. While one analyst has said he expects the number of automakers using HUDs to go up from the current nine to 14 by 2016, he believes we're "well over five years" away from beginning to see full-screen displays, and that even then they probably won't make it on cars that cost under $30,000.