In-car head-up displays are getting more and more sophisticated. Once only capable of showing basic information, there are now HUDs around that can show rev counters, navigation instructions and incoming calls, all in a variety of different colours.
The tech usually involves a projector behind the steering wheel that beams information onto the windscreen, but Volvo wants to take things a step further - by making the entire screen one giant HUD. Using the Volvo Cars Tech Fund, founded in 2018, the Swedish firm has invested $2 million in Spectralics, a start-up that might just make such a thing a reality.
The key to all this is a “multi-layered thin combiner” or MLTC. Described as a “thin optics ‘film,” the MLTC could be built into a car’s windscreen and/or windows, allowing for the display of all sorts of imagery. In an example image attached to the press release, we can see more familiar HUD stuff like current speed, along with a speed limit display high up the left side of the screen, and an augmented reality warning for a ‘moose crossing’. Very Swedish.
There’s a lot going on, which might lead to distraction concerns. However, the argument could be made that such a concept has the potential to greatly reduce the need for the driver to take their eyes off the road. Crucially, the way the augmented elements should, Volvo says “instil a sense of distance,” ensuring a “safe and immersive experience”.
Volvo is also looking at other possible applications for the technology, including “advanced filters for various applications, in-cabin sensing, blind-proof front-looking cameras and digital holographic projections”. Don’t expect to see this in a Volvo product any time soon, though - the tech is said to be “at an early stage of development.”
Speaking about the investment Volvo Cars Tech Fund boss Lee Ma said: “Spectralics is a good portfolio fit for us and we believe that their technology has the potential to set a standard for the next generation of displays and cameras.”