"There are industry experts who swear that a wide-screen HUD is just a pipe dream," Boyadjis said. "If you install a large-screen HUD above the dashboard, inevitably, someone will ask you, 'Where do you put the defroster?'"
TI's Gordon agreed that there's not enough dashboard space to cram in everything from a steering wheel to heating, ventilation, air conditioning, navigation, and ADAS. "It's just law of physics."
DLP-based HUD in a car in 2016
With its compact DLP system, TI believes it has a leg up on its competitors in the HUD battle. Its automotive DLP-based system -- consisting of a DLP chip (driving micro mirrors), optics (lenses and prisms), and an LED light source -- is already small, thanks to the optic partners TI has worked with for years in DLP-based pico projectors, Gordon said. "We are in the midst of intersecting decisions and choices carmakers and Tier 1s are making right now." DLP-HUD might not be put in place in new models right away, but carmakers need to make a decision now so that they can carve out space for HUD in advance.
TI believes the company has a good chance at a number of DLP design wins in a few years. Gordon noted that consumers will find its DLP HUD installed in a new car in 2016.
Beyond the size issue, IHS Automotive analyst Boyadjis said, the price and value proposition (content displayed) are two other factors that prevented big growth in automotive HUDs over the decades. The cost of light sources (such as lasers or LCDs), mirrors, and filters on glass (specific windshield coatings to display information) will continue to dog HUDs.
The rapid growth of ADAS could alter the market landscape. In addition to GPS information, HUDs can use information from ADAS to offer visual cues such as lane departure warnings, nighttime pedestrian alerts, rear-end collision warnings, and adaptive cruise-control following distance. Suddenly, content on an automotive HUD is no longer the same old stuff coming from a car's instrument cluster. Gordon said automotive HUDs are evolving from offering static information to offering the dynamic information that comes from ADAS.
NVidia's Shapiro also said the ADAS and HUD markets will grow in lockstep. NVidia's GPU -- the same one used by car OEMs as a UI composer -- is being used to analyze ADAS information. Initially, car OEMs are most likely to use one module running the ADAS and another running the HUD, but NVidia's GPU is well positioned to play a synergetic role in taking good analysis from the ADAS, generating effective graphics, and displaying it on the HUD.
TI's Gordon said that, if designed right, advanced HUDs could help reduce the growing number of displays inside a car. She cited a Strategy Analytics report showing that, by 2020, a car could have 10-20 displays, including a center console, a display for rearview mirrors, and another for outside mirrors.
What follows is a slideshow of HUDs from today (including the in-car combiner used by Peugeot and after-market devices from Garmin and Pioneer) and the HUDs of tomorrow demonstrated at tradeshows or discussed by suppliers.
Click the image below to start the slideshow.
This fall in Europe, Pioneer rolled out the NavGate after-market HUD, based on Texas Instruments' DLP projector. This device, priced at around $1,000, combines augmented reality with smartphone connectivity. Pioneer says it offers the virtual equivalent of a 30-inch display hovering
a few feet in front of the hood.