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Pilots of F-18s have been using the technology for years -- displays of vital information appearing on the cockpit windshield. Soon, automobile drivers will get a similar view with speed, navigation information -- even urgent warning messages -- displayed on their windshield. The goal of the heads-up display is to put the important information in a driver's line of sight.
"For many of the distractions that can lead to an accident on the roadway," says P.J. Crowley of the Insurance Information Institute. "A heads up display can potentially help a driver manage these distractions while keeping his/her eyes firmly fixed on the road."
"One of our missions is to add safety to the driver's driving experience," says Harry Asher of Siemens VDO. "Navigation is a good example of that. It provides the driver reinforcement so they don't have to think so much about the actual driving task."
A little further down the technology road comes augmented reality. Just think of that yellow "first down" marker the TV networks use when broadcasting football games. Siemens VDO is developing a similar system for drivers.
"What augmented reality does is put a yellow line -- kind of a graphic -- that appears to be painted directly onto the road surface that the driver sees ahead, and it provides a very easy way to be guided to the destination," says Asher.
Already, the convergence of computers and electronics have given drivers near endless navigation and infotainment options -- from audio, video and radio hand controls on the steering wheel to multimedia systems with traffic and navigational information.
Electronics technology has advanced so quickly that a car built just ten years ago is an antique compared to today's vehicles -- which may have as many as thirty mini-computers working together to run everything from the anti-lock brakes to the heads-up display