The Next Generation of Head-up Displays

The automotive supplier Continental teamed up with Silicon-Valley based DigiLens to create a highly innovative HUD system. The new technology is much smarter and more effective than conventional HUDs and could surely revolutionize the market.

© Continental AG

Image source cover photo: © Continental AG

Head-up displays (HUD) are probably mostly known from computer games, where you have all your character information on screen while playing. Since the 90s this system is also used for pilots, especially in the military sector. That is also the origin of the name, as the pilots get data and information with their head positioned “up” – no need to look away. In the last years the HUD technology became available in many other sectors as the commercial aircraft and automobile industry.

Continental Meets DigiLens

For instance, the Silicon Valley-based leader in holographic waveguide projection technology DigiLens teamed up with the world’s top five automotive supplier Continental AG to create an innovative new HUD, based on optical fibers. Continental first invested in DigiLens in 2016 through a partnership. The new HUD is now ready for industrialization. The system bends light directly in the optical fibers, reducing the needed space for installation to one sixth of standard HUD systems. The major advantage is the innovative fiber design, which is smaller and more efficient than the former optical system of mirrors and lenses.

“By reducing the size of head-up displays, this waveguide technology truly holds the potential to revolutionize the market,”

says Thorsten-Alexander Kern, Head of HUD Product Development at Continental’s business unit Instrumentation & Driver HMI and member of the DigiLens Board of Directors.

There is No Innovative Design without Printing

One highlight of the new HUD is the print technology manufacturing process. Switchable Bragg gratings are brought onto the optical fibers by using a specially developed, holographic photopolymer with inkjet printing. These diffractive structures bend, shape and enlarge the light introduced from a very small projector and a LED module to get the desired image on the windscreen. Therefore the translucency of the Bragg grating is able to be switched within milliseconds. Additionally, separate fibers for green, red and blue light enable a free choice of colours for the optical elements. The printing process also reduces the manufacturing costs compared to conventional processes for silicon-based optical fibers like the etching method.

Beyond The Horizon

The joint target for mass production is 2022, but Continental and DigiLens already have future plans for their innovation. They are planning to integrate the new HUD not only in cars but in motorcycle and pilot’s helmets to enable the users to get important information like warnings directly shown on their visors.

“Based on the waveguide technology, we see a great potential to realize augmented reality head-up displays also for a broad market,”

Kern prospects.

Would you like to use such a HUD in your vehicle? Or do you think it is as distracting as normal instrument panels? We are looking forward to your comments!