New waveguide technology enables large-area augmentation in the driver’s field of view
Shifting from mirrors to innovative waveguide technology makes it possible to integrate an AR-HUD in many vehicle cockpits for the first time
Continental builds a full-colour demonstrator to show the ultra-compact waveguide HUD’s potential
Continental, the premium German tyre and technology company, has revealed an industry-first full-colour demonstrator of an automotive-specific Augmented Reality Head-up Display (AR-HUD). Based on waveguide technology, the demonstrator is the result of a joint partnership with DigiLens Inc., one of the world’s leading experts in projection technology.
HUDs with graphic augmentations in a real-world view offer intuitive support to drivers who will immediately understand where their attention is required and why. For instance, virtual turn-by-turn navigation signs on the road make driving safer and easier. During automated driving, an AR-HUD can make the “sensing” and “planning” of the vehicle more transparent.
“Head-up Displays, particularly those with large-area augmentation, provide optimum driver support. Thanks to our early investment into waveguide technology, we are now taking a big step forward towards ultra-compact AR-HUDs. We have successfully overcome the most challenging obstacle which is the instrument size. As a result, industrialising this technology in the vehicle is now within reach,” said Dr. Frank Rabe, Head of the Continental business unit Instrumentation & Driver HMI.
Flat waveguides replace mirror technology
Up until very recently, AR-HUD development was still generally based on mirror technology, like in the windscreen HUD. However, what works well in the HUD is not an option for the AR-HUD, because the display area of a conventional HUD is small by comparison.
“Most vehicles simply do not offer a large amount of space. That was clear from day one, and that is why we wanted a different solution in order to be able to offer the AR-HUD benefits to as many drivers as possible,” said Dr. Pablo Richter, Principal Expert Optical Technologies at Continental.
That is also why Continental entered into a strategic partnership with the waveguide HUD expert DigiLens in 2016 and increased this participation in 2018. The joint development work has now produced the first full-colour demonstrator, which uses three flat waveguides stacked over one another to create the RGB colour space – and no mirrors.
“The light rays from the projector enter the multi-layer waveguide from underneath. They get folded inside the waveguide and are finally projected upwards to create the virtual image through reflection on the windscreen,” Richter explained. “One of the many challenges was that while our development partner had produced solutions for the helmet visors of pilots or motorcycle drivers, the large-area application to a windscreen takes the technology to a whole different dimension.”
Continental´s demonstrator enables augmentations within a field of 2,60 metres x 0,87 metres at a projection distance of 10 metres and solves the previous size issue of the AR-HUD. Over the course of ongoing development, further necessary requirements to the vehicle application will be met individually.