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Head-up displays are still new to the heavy-truck market, but Continental is now offering both windshield and combiner HUDs for commercial vehicles.

Continental brings head-up displays to commercial vehicles

Leveraging the technology and expertise from the company’s automotive business, Continental engineers have developed a head-up display (HUD) specifically for commercial vehicles (CVs). The technology was installed in the company’s InnovationTruck and has logged more than 27,000 km (43,450 mi) during successful testing. Continental offers the display as a windshield or a combiner HUD, with the display shown either in the upper or lower field of view (look-up or look-down concept).

The windshield HUD, for which the windshield serves as a mirror for the displayed information, is suitable for CVs with flatter windshields, which are common in the U.S. For the combiner HUD, a transparent pane (the combiner) handles the image reflection in front of the windshield—ideal for confined spaces with more steeply curved windshields, common in Europe.

In addition to safety benefits, head-up displays can allow OEMs new opportunities in vehicle design, according to Jennifer Wahnschaff, Head of Instrumentation & Driver HMI, the Americas, Interior Division, Continental AG. For example, the instrument panel can be made smaller since information content can be transferred to the HUD. The displays also can play a key human-machine interface (HMI) role as vehicles become more automated, providing the driver with information about the current automation mode and other vital details. Wahnschaff recently spoke with Truck & Off-Highway Engineering about some of these HMI trends.

What will drive growth of HUD technology in CVs?

A lot of the similarities between the automotive industry and where we see the benefits of having [information displayed] in a head-up view—as opposed to a head-down view in the center display or in the instrument cluster—is a real benefit for safety. As more and more safety technology comes into the vehicle, we need a way to get the message quickly to the driver to make them aware of lane departure or a vehicle down on the side of the road. Partnering up with our ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) technology—the adaptive safety side—we see that the head-up display is a great place to put that kind of information.

As we get more vehicle-to-vehicle communication and vehicle-to-infrastructure, [real-time] information would be available in the head-up display and give a warning to the driver so that they are aware of an accident, for example. If you’ve ever used the app Waze or similar type of apps where information is entered in and you know when there’s a vehicle down on the side of the road, or an obstruction in the road or traffic—this kind of information once we have the infrastructure communications setup would be available in the head-up display.

As consumers become more familiar with the technology, if they buy a [passenger] vehicle with a head-up display, 70% of those owners purchase another vehicle with a head-up display. They become comfortable with the technology and they’re expecting it. With the turn-by-turn navigation and dynamic information in the navigation system, having that information displayed in the head-up display keeps the driver’s eyes on the road. If you’re a truck driver and you need to find a delivery location, and you’re not turning your head down to see either your personal navigation or the navigation system in the truck, you’re going to be a safer driver.

How much technology can carry over from passenger cars to commercial vehicles?

The feature content that we would put in would be tailored to the truck market, but the technology itself would not need to be adapted for the truck market. I think it would actually make it a little bit easier because with a head-up display, with the current technology that we have, we need significant space in order to place the components in there—up to 16 L for the augmented reality [head-up display]. And you tend to have more space in a commercial vehicle. The current [head-up displays] are about 3 to 8 L of space.

Do you see this as an opportunity for CVs since there is more space to package an augmented reality system?

Yeah, they don’t have as much of a concern for the space, it’s just a matter of when the commercial vehicle [OEMs] want to adopt it. I’ve verified with my colleagues in the commercial vehicle arena that we have done some initial studies with a couple of the premium OEMs for commercial vehicles. But right now they haven’t decided on timing for introduction.

Can you talk about the benefits of augmented reality HUDs and your partnership with DigiLens?

We were doing the augmented reality prior to the [partnership with DigiLens]. We expect to have that technology available for augmented reality in 2020. The DigiLens partnership helps us to shrink the size even further, and that’s about two to three years out beyond when the technology would be ready for augmented reality. So it’s a further enhancement.

The augmented reality is also a variant of the windshield head-up display. What it does is it’s projecting the information out further into the environment around you. To a layman, if you know American football and you see the lines painted on the field for the downs [when watching on TV], that’s the kind of appearance you can get with an augmented-reality display. So instead of having a static arrow that shows turn right here and it’s something that’s floating somewhere around the end of the hood of your vehicle, we can actually ‘paint’ the arrow so that it looks like it’s on the road, so you have a much more accurate perception of exactly where you need to turn.

We don’t have a partner already defined for the augmented reality system. We’re working with several different OEMs, but the concerns that they have right now are not in the technology per se, but the amount of space that we need in order to introduce that technology in a vehicle, because it does take a lot of space. That’s part of the reason that we’re partnering up with DigiLens because it takes the need for space down by about a third—more in the range of the current windshield head-up display space that’s required. It’s shaped a little bit differently but it’s much easier for the OEMs to package in their vehicles.

Can you explain the technology’s potential with more highly automated vehicles?

An important aspect is the ‘handshake’ between the driver and the safety systems that are in the vehicle. Many of the safety systems that we’re introducing with our adaptive safety group, we need a place to show that information to the driver. Right now as the driver is the center point of the vehicle, many of those new safety features are difficult to bring into acceptance in the market, and so we need a way to build confidence and trust with the drivers. So having a central area and great holistic HMI [is key]—a way of presenting the information so that it’s not distracting, it’s there when the driver needs it, and it’s easy to understand. For example, if you’re using an adaptive cruise control system, it’s detecting a vehicle in front of you and then measuring the distance between that vehicle, and the driver has the opportunity to adjust that distance. In the current system of head-up display, or even in the instrument cluster, it’s showing that as a static image. With an augmented reality head-up display, we can actually draw a halo underneath the vehicle in front of us so we know exactly which vehicle our vehicle is detecting. We also see a blue carpet painted on the road in segments and those segments help us to understand how many seconds are between us and the vehicle in front of us, and as I adjust it, taking away segments or adding segments. As I change lanes, it also shows me that now it’s moving from this current vehicle to the next vehicle. So it helps to build that level of trust with the driver.

Beyond HUDs, any other HMI trends that could move from passenger car to commercial vehicles?

One other thing which I would say is the interior camera. Right now that has two phases of application. One is for safety, having facial recognition and being able to authenticate the driver as one being authorized to use the vehicle. Also with understanding who the driver is, being able to add comfort features—the setup for the mirrors, all of the memory features, what you like to have on the radio, and the ambiance that you want to have in a vehicle can all be tied into knowing the identity of the driver. As well as other safety features that can be used if we have a drowsy driver, which I know is sometimes a big concern for commercial vehicle—being able to detect drowsiness with the camera due to eye movement or the eyelids varying.

We have some advanced studies on the biometrics already in our Innovation Group. Our current status, we have one program launching in Europe and we have discussions with multiple OEMs for the introduction of the interior camera as mainly a safety feature. The comfort features they get as added benefits, but we expect that the market is going to continue to pick up.

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