Pioneer Plans Head-up Display for Cars in 2012

Pioneer is preparing to launch a  navigation system that uses laser projection to superimpose maps and directions in the space in front of a car’s windshield.

There is no questioning the utility of a good car navigation system – it takes the guess work out of getting around, spares you from leafing through street directories on the roadside and probably saves a few trees in the process. But while their accuracy and graphics have improved over time, the basic concept has not changed a whole lot: You have a screen to provide a visual representation of your actual environment and a speaker to relay directions so you’re not distracted.

With their AR Head-Up Display unit, Pioneer may just have a game-changer on their hands. The display uses a laser projector and concave half mirror to project maps and directions 1.5m to 2m in front of the windshield – onto the real world.

From Pioneer:

Last year, we produced a very large version of this system, just to show it could be done. This year, we’ve made the product compact, so it will fit in a car and we can release it commercially. We’ve also incorporated AR technology, to show routes directly on the scenery the driver sees. So this display can show useful content, such as arrows where the driver needs to turn, and restaurants and parking areas as pop-up information.

Pioneer seems to have big plans for the AR-HUD:

We’re thinking of also integrating this system with smartphones. As this is an in-car display, its purpose is to show drivers essential information in a way that’s easy to understand. Because we want to make the system widely available, the idea is that people can purchase this AR-HUD and install it in their own car. We aim to release this product commercially in 2012.

So far, the company hasn’t released a price, and your author would be hesitant to speculate as to how much something like this would cost. Laser projectors don’t sound cheap, but remember it’s a small one, and by doing away with the screen and the need to render complex graphics, Pioneer might be able to keep the build cost out of the stratosphere. Wouldn’t that be nice?