Ford's Lincoln division is the first automotive manufacturer to put Continental's new Digital Micromirror Device head-up display (HUD) technology into production. By projecting symbolic representations of objects ahead of the vehicle, it moves a step closer to Continental's goal of offering augmented reality HUD.
Studies by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute have consistently found that the chance of a crash or near crash more than double when a driver takes his or her eyes off the road ahead. HUD technology can reduce the need to look away by displaying selected information in the driver's line of sight.
In 1988, General Motors was the first automotive manufacturer to offer the technology that had originally been developed for fighter aircraft. Early systems projected an image from a cathode ray tube onto the inside of the windscreen or a pop-up screen built into the top of the instrument panel.
Later systems used liquid crystal display (LCD), LED or laser technology to project the images with the ultimate goal of creating virtual images that appear to the driver to be beyond the front of the vehicle, reducing the degree that the driver has to change eye focus to clearly see the displayed information.
As well as displaying basic data such as speed and engine RPM, digital map data or camera technology can also enable the current speed limit to be displayed. Advanced active safety systems can provide data enabling road markings to be enhanced, following distance alerts to be posted and obstacles such as pedestrians and cyclists to be symbolically highlighted.
Continental has been prominent in the HUD sector and announced in 2014 that it was working on an augmented reality HUD (AR-HUD) system with "near" and "status" projection distances and "remote" and "augmentation" projection levels available.
Selected status information such as current speed, the speed limit and the current setting of the Adaptive Cruise Control appear to be near the front of the vehicle's bonnet, while augmented representations of navigation symbols or hazards appear to be 65 feet to 330 feet (20 m to 100 m) in front as part of the road ahead.
The content is adapted to the traffic conditions using inputs from camera and radar sensors, vehicle dynamics systems, digital map data and GPS positioning. The system also supports other driver assistance systems such as lane departure warning.
According to Dr. Frank Rabe, head of the Instrumentation & Driver HMI business unit at Continental, the Digital Micromirror Device (DMD) HUD is a step towards AR-HUD.
"It is a great achievement for the entire team that our digital micromirror device technology is going into production for the first time at Lincoln," says Rabe. "Our solution closes the gap between the classic head-up display and augmented reality head-up displays and provides a better image with a larger display area."
In place of the previously used TFT LCD technology, the DMD generates graphical elements in the same way that digital cinema projectors do, integrating mirror optics and a picture generating unit. An intermediate screen and sequential color management result in brighter and sharper images than those produced by previous displays making the Lincoln HUD one of the brightest and largest in its class.
The increased display area enables more information to be displayed so that the need for the driver to shift focus to the instrument cluster is reduced and it remains visible to drivers wearing polarized sunglasses.
Perhaps fittingly, the first application of Continental's DMD HUD was on the 2017 Lincoln Continental. Now it's available on the 2018 Lincoln Navigator.