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Monday, February 20, 2017
Known as “heads-up displays” or HUDs, these new tech devices are the latest rage from automobile manufacturers. The manufacturer will claim that these smart windshields reduce distracted driving because all pertinent information is displayed on the windshield so that the driver’s eyes stay on the road. While they are advertised as safe, how does an array of information on the windshield keep a driver focused?
HUDs are transparent displays that are positioned onto the windshield in between the driver and the road. The information appears in the driver’s line of sight or just below the line of view. It may display everything from directions from the GPS, vehicle speed, and even cell phone calls.
Some manufacturers are touting their new HUDs as distracted driving solutions, because they feel that the driver’s attention will always be focused upward rather than downward.
Commercial pilots use these types of displays to help them land and take off, but it is different for pilots. After all, they do not have as many distractions, and they are not next to multiple planes as they are attempting to land. They also don’t have to worry about other pilots’ erratic behaviors on the road with them.
HUDs have been around since WWII. They were developed for fighter pilots to improve their accuracy during gunfights, and improve safety for landing and taking off when on a military aircraft. Over time, these HUDs expanded to commercial flights.
There is the argument that critical information being displayed on the windshield is necessary, because pilots do not take their eyes off the task ahead; therefore, safety is improved rather than diminished.
While the HUDs provide significant security advantages, there are still accidents that occur because of those HUDs in commercial and military aircraft. These displays can make a pilot react less quickly and increase the likelihood of distraction.
While automobile manufacturers will claim that their smart windshields are the solution for distracted driving, the reality is that they have no scientific evidence or case studies proving such.
What has been proven is the fact that the human brain is not capable of multitasking as efficiently as one might think. When they have roadway conditions to worry about, drivers should not be looking at a detailed display in front of them at the same time. And, it is not just about where the driver’s eyes are pointing; it is about where their minds are focused. When focused on a smart display, the drivers are less focused on the road. In this case, they may have slowed reaction times.
Several manufacturers are offering HUDs on their cars, despite reports that vehicles with HUDs are no safer than vehicles without them. These manufacturers include BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, Volvo, Chevrolet, Lexus, Mazda, and MINI Cooper.
Most 2016 models started phasing in the use of HUDs, and most of the 2017 and 2018 models will have some sort of heads-up display, but the complexity of the display will depend on the manufacturer.
These HUDs are marketed as a way to provide critical information in an easy-to-read form, and they are supposed to be useful in times of poor weather conditions, such as fog. They are also connected to infrared sensor systems and radar, but they are not all as functional as they claim.
Recently, Samsung Italia unveiled their idea for the Smart Windshield made exclusively for motorcycles. It was basically their version of a heads-up display. The technology is like a four-wheeled vehicle, while the smartphone pairs with an app to create a projection on a small screen on a dash on the scooter. Most of the functions are directions, and some will interact with Google Maps.
The prototype has been retrofitted to work on the Yamaha Tricity, but according to BBC, it has already been met with plenty of opposition. Safety professionals worry that it is a good “bad idea.” After all, people can still be distracted looking down at a display when they should be looking at the road. The idea, however, is that the rider’s hands remain on the handlebars even when eyes are not on the road, because at least they are not fumbling for a phone.
The heads-up display is still considered better than reaching for a smartphone or fumbling with a GPS system on the dash. They do, after all, keep the driver’s attention on the windshield, and hopefully on the road. However, HUDs are still a threat to safety, because the driver is focusing on more than one thing at a time.
In theory, the HUDs are safe, but in reality, the HUDs do not eliminate the age-old problem of distraction: When the brain has to split focus. After all, if drivers must focus on the HUD, then they are not fully focused on the road. They could be reading small wording about directions, focusing on alerts, and more. By reading anything, even if eyes are straight ahead, drivers are not focusing on the road – they are focusing on their windshields.
Drivers cannot safely operate a vehicle and divide their attention, and studies have shown that already. With some HUDs showing more complex information, the chances of them becoming a dangerous distraction are more likely in the future.
Distracted driving is negligent driving. If you were injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you could have a claim against that driver or possibly the manufacturer of the HUD in the vehicle. Even if the driver was not using a HUD, his or her distracted driving is evidence enough, and he or she can be held liable for your losses.
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