Head-up displays used to be exclusive to fighter planes, video games and cheesy science fiction movies, but they are rapidly growing in popularity for cars. They are even starting to penetrate the lower-cost vehicle segments, with systems available on the 2014 Mini Cooper and Mazda3.

HUDs are certainly not new to cars. After all, General Motors has championed the technology since the '90s in many models, but technological breakthroughs are making them more common. According to Automotive News, in 2014, there are 38 vehicles on sale in the US with standard or optional displays, up from 13 in 2009.

The technology works with an optics box projecting an image on a specially coated windshield in front of the driver. The breakthrough has been shrinking the box while making the image larger and more colorful without operating too hot. Panasonic unveiled a unit half the size of competitors at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show that displayed a 6-inch high and 16-inch wide image, twice as big as others.

There is a second, cheaper solution too. These so-called "combiner" HUDs project the image on small transparent panes. This is the solution that Mini and Mazda are using. While less expensive and more compact, they have lower image quality than traditional displays. Automotive News cites an IHS forecast that HUDs will be found in 9.1 million cars worldwide by 2020, up from 500,000 this year, and most of them will be combiner displays.

Given the technology's relative simplicity, it's amazing that it has taken so long for head-up displays to make it to cheaper cars, but it seems that its time as come.


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  • 30 Comments
      Justin Johnson
      • 10 Months Ago
      Another Oldsmobile first, my '89 Cutlass Supreme was equipped, still miss it in my newer vehicles.
        axiomatik
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Justin Johnson
        I thought Pontiac had the first HUDs? My '89 Nissan has one too.
      fran
      • 10 Months Ago
      One of the best new feature I have seen in cars in many years. I hope it becomes standard too. Very unobtrusive, convenient and useful invention.
      Jeff Gilleran
      • 10 Months Ago
      Honestly, I was ready for Advanced HUD 20 years ago. Nissan dabbled in it in the 240 SX in the early 90s but the public wouldn't have it. Granted, tech has come a LONG way since then, but I would accept it no problem. Particularly when they adopt a good IR system for night time driving, with active object recognition. I could see something in the road, and know exactly what it is and react accordingly. Additionally, would be excellent in inclement weather where even seeing the road is difficult during a dark stormy night. I was born ready for this tech. :-)
        axiomatik
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Jeff Gilleran
        Nissan started in the '80s, actually. My '89 240sx (first year of the model) has HUD.
      360GT: Big Bigg Jim
      • 10 Months Ago
      Nissan autos in the 90s had this technology displaying your speed. What they found was it was distracting their drivers so they stopped producing it. I agree... Now if you add GPS bla bla bla... and an already distracted driver looking at their face book, "recipe for disaster" if you ask me.
      Koenigsegg
      • 10 Months Ago
      No thanks dont want anything on my windshield, if i want that i'll go play my xbox.
        NeO
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Koenigsegg
        Your an idiot. Its been in fighter jets for decades its not a toy, its a useful tool. Unlike you, a useless tool.
          b.rn
          • 10 Months Ago
          @NeO
          I agree with you, but had to vote you down for your last sentence.
      thecommentator2013
      • 10 Months Ago
      So, GM was one of the first if not the first in their Pontiacs? Still believe Germans build the best cars?
        fran
        • 10 Months Ago
        @thecommentator2013
        You really had to bring that up, don't you?
      quagmire2@gmail.com
      • 10 Months Ago
      We love it in our new 2014 Cadillac ATS( our first vehicle with HUD). It's great to see the speed and tachometer right on the windshield as well as the directions when there is a destination set in the nav.
        Mr. BaderĀ®
        • 10 Months Ago
        @quagmire2@gmail.com
        Sadly I don't have it in my 2014 ATS 3.6, it is not available in Saudi Arabia
      ksrcm
      • 10 Months Ago
      Wake me up when it displays my e-mails and SMS with keyboard on the steering wheel. BTW ... fighter jets ... HUD is in the helmet and turns with your head. Not even close the same thing. Besides, you don't have Sidewinder missiles attached so you need HUD to lock the target. That said, a GUI that pops up with useful information (stay in lane, pedestrian impact imminent, animals on the side of the road ...) - I'm all for that. But knowing my speed, next turn from navi and which song is playing right now? You can keep it.
        rcavaretti
        • 10 Months Ago
        @ksrcm
        Yeah, we need people looking down single finger pecking a keyboard while driving....great distraction.
          bigb_poz
          • 10 Months Ago
          @rcavaretti
          sorry rcavaretti, there will be no keyboard HMI (Human Machine Interface) connected to the HUD system, but more likely voice control or steering wheel switches. This technology is actually a 'anti-driver distraction' safety feature when you think about it thoroughly. It will someday soon be standard equipment like airbags and delay wipers.
          ksrcm
          • 10 Months Ago
          @rcavaretti
          @bigb_poz This is ONLY if you assume that the data displayed on HUD is necessary for safe driving. Right now I haven't seen a SINGLE instance of data useful or necessary for safe driving. I will make an exception for deaf people who cannot hear Sally The Navigator Lady warning you 7 times to turn before you actually have to turn. That's why I said it will be fine when really important safety warnings pop up in your field of vision (infrared camera collision warning, infrared camera ice warning, disabled vehicle warning ... and so on). Of course, my first paragraph was heavy sarcasm - that was seemingly unclear the first time around.
      Teleny411
      • 10 Months Ago
      Why not just attach a gaming system and be done with it?
        NeO
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Teleny411
        We already have enough morons texting and driving, anything that makes cars safer is a plus. I guess you switch off before you drive off.
      NeO
      • 10 Months Ago
      ABOUT F***ING TIME.
      DRAGON
      • 10 Months Ago
      Head-up displays and head-less driving...
      Cool Disco Dan
      • 10 Months Ago
      HUDs were available in Pontiacs and NIssans decades ago.
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