GM's next-generation HUD concept – Click above for high-res image gallery

Currently, automakers use head-up displays to project important vehicle information (speed, navigation directions, etc.) on the windshield, keeping the driver's eyes focused on the road, where they belong. General Motors is hard at work developing its next-generation heads-up technology, and we were given a preview yesterday of what sort of new features to expect in the coming years.

This new concept, developed in partnership with Carnegie Mellon and the University of Southern California, uses an augmented reality system to display head-up information across the entire windshield. Never heard of augmented reality? Sure you have. When you're watching a football game and images appear on the screen to indicate lines on the playing field, that's augmented reality. GM feels that this technology will be a good way to expand upon current heads-up systems without being too distracting for drivers.

GM's new concept uses an array of vehicle sensors and cameras to collect data and project images directly onto the surface of the windshield. For example, if you're driving in dark foggy conditions, this technology can highlight the lines of the road. By pairing these functions with existing night vision technology, the heads-up system can identify and highlight animals or people along the side of the road. It's all about improving safety, not only for the driver and passengers, but for pedestrians, too. What's more, this new tech can work with a car's navigation system to give more precise directions, highlighting actual road signs or buildings to show drivers where they should be going.

Don't expect to see this technology anytime soon, however – there's still quite a bit of work to be done. GM needs to figure out how to piggyback on sensors and cameras already used in automotive applications, as well as how to keep the overall cost down. We imagine there are probably a few legal hurdles to be surmounted as well. That said, we're told that if things go well, we could see a complete version of this system as early as 2016. Still, it's a very forward-thinking concept, and we'll be interested to see how these new functions slowly come to market. Hit the jump to read GM's press release, and click through our gallery below to check out high-res shots of the heads-up display prototype.

[Source: General Motors]
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GM Reimagines Head-Up Display Technology

- GM's next-generation head-up technology will make driving safer.
- Research conducted in conjunction with leading universities.

Warren, Mich. -- Imagine a fog-shrouded morning when you cannot see the end of your driveway let alone the road you're about to drive. Wouldn't it be great if the sides of the road could magically appear on your windshield?

It's not magic, and it's not far away either.

General Motors R&D and several universities are working on a system that would use data gathered from an array of vehicle sensors and cameras and project images generated by compact ultra violet lasers directly onto the entire surface of the windshield,

"We're looking to create enhanced vision systems," says Thomas Seder, group lab manager-GM R&D. His team is working with Carnegie Mellon University and The University of Southern California, as well as other institutions, to create a full windshield head-up system leveraging night vision, navigation and camera-based sensor technologies to improve driver visibility and object detection ability.

"Let's say you're driving in fog, we could use the vehicle's infrared cameras to identify where the edge of the road is and the lasers could 'paint' the edge of the road onto the windshield so the driver knows where the edge of the road is," Seder said.

Enhanced vision systems are a 21st Century take on head's up display technology that GM was the first to market in 1988. Designed to help keep driver attention on the road ahead by displaying important information such as vehicle speed, lane change indicator status and vehicle warning messages directly into the driver's field of vision, head-up display systems are currently available on the GMC Acadia, Chevrolet Corvette, Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac STS.

Scientists and lab technicians at GM's global research and development in Warren, MI, are now developing next-generation head-up systems that could transform the everyday windshield into a device that can make driving even safer. While the full windshield head-up system has not yet been identified for a future GM vehicle program, Seder says some of the supporting technologies could end up in GM vehicles in the near-term future.

Coated with a series of transparent phosphors which emit visible light when excited by a light beam-in this case from a compact laser-the windshield becomes a large area transparent display, instead of current HUD systems that use only a small portion of the windshield.

The ability to use such an expansive surface enables the system to alert drivers of potential dangers that may exist outside of the normal field of vision-including children playing or motorcycles passing.

On that foggy day, maybe worsened by sleet or snow, the enhanced vision system could combine night vision with the head-up system to identify and highlight the precise location of animals roaming along the side of the road that could have avoided recognition with the naked eye.

"This design is superior to traditional head down display-based night vision systems, which require a user to read information from a traditional display, create a mental model and imagine the threat's precise location in space," Seder said

As an added safety feature, the head-up system can be combined with automated sign reading technology, similar to the Opel Eye system that debuted on the 2009 Opel Insignia, to alert the driver if they are driving over the posted speed limit or if there's impending construction or other potential problems ahead. Additionally, the system can use navigation system data to alert the driver of their desired exit by reading overhead traffic signs.

"We have done testing on a number of drivers and their performance is better relative to head-down systems that are commonly used in vehicles today," Seder said. "It's a compelling design."

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