The technology debuted in fighter jets, tricked down to luxury vehicles and is now arriving in more affordable ones. It’s a holographic technology called HUD – Heads Up Display.

The technology I’m covering this week first debuted in fighter jets, trickled down to luxury cars, and is now arriving in more affordable vehicles. It’s a holographic technology known as a Head-Up Display, or HUD.

The first time I tested a HUD was during Hyundai’s launch of the redesigned 2015 Genesis. I was sitting in the press presentation, and my eyes started rolling when I heard Hyundai reps talking about a floating image that would appear on the windshield above the steering wheel.

I was sure it would be a busy display of information, such as my current speed, navigation instructions, blind spot warnings, and adaptive cruise control data. And it would display directly in my field of vision – really?

Was I ever wrong.

I adapted quickly, and really noticed its absence when I swapped cars to a lower trim that wasn’t HUD-equipped. I missed it – especially the navigation instructions – when I was driving a vehicle without a HUD.

In one afternoon I was converted: “now you want me to look ALL the way down to the dash screen to know where to turn? Come on.”

The key to displaying a crisp image is to refract the light, and there are two ways of doing this. One method uses a translucent screen, and the more sophisticated method – like in the Genesis – is to project the information through the windshield.

Mazda uses the former method, calling it Active Driving Display, and offers it standard in the top trim of the automaker’s 2015 Mazda3. Aftermarket units (like Navdy and Garmin) use this screen type, too. Those units connect to the car via the driver’s smartphone or OBD II port, and the information is projected onto the screen that the driver positions atop his or her dash.

The factory-installed HUD sends the image through a lens that’s integrated into the windshield, making the image appear to be floating above the hood about three feet from the driver’s eyes. GM uses this system, and the one in the company’s 2016 Corvette Z06 even has a G-force meter.

Both types are customizable, allowing the driver to choose which information to display, at which height, and what brightness. And while of course it’s easy to see the display while driving at night, amazingly it’s still visible in direct sunlight. The more advanced systems adjust automatically to exterior lighting conditions.

Usually I condemn these new bleeding-edge technology features and discourage adoption, but Head-Up Displays are an exception with how they allow you to register information without removing your eyes from the road.

Definitely opt-in when purchasing a new car, or look into an aftermarket one. It’s that helpful.

First published on theautonet.com.

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