Continental, the international automotive supplier, is providing the second generation head-up display for the new BMW 3 Series. The head-up display shows relevant information such as speed, navigation and infotainment data, as well as warnings in the driver’s direct field of vision. The head-up display’s virtual screen appears around two meters in front of the driver above the engine hood, so he is informed of all important issues without looking away from the road.
“The head-up display reduces driver distraction and increases driving safety. It is important to us that these benefits are passed on to as many drivers as possible. We are extremely proud of the fact that with the BMW 3 Series the head-up display is now also available in mid-range vehicles,” said Eelco Spoelder, head of Continental’s Instrumentation and Driver HMI business unit. Continental began producing head-up displays in 2003. The many years of experience are now helping the company to both work together with its customers and make the head-up display even more attractive to drivers. In 2010, Continental began series production of the second-generation head-up display at Audi. Both systems are produced in Babenhausen, in the German state of Hesse.
Image quality and ease of use – the tangible strengths of the head-up display A vibrant, full-color display makes Continental’s new head-up display appeal to drivers. Compared with the previous, restricted color spectrum, new white LEDs project the entire color spectrum from the image generated on a TFT display. The increased brightness of the white LED technology in the new image generation unit means that the new head-up display offers significantly greater contrast and can also render features such as night view displays. The new image generation unit has just 15 LEDs, contributing significantly to reduce the power consumed (rated input) by the new head-up display to around one third of the previous version, which required 128 LEDs to generate images. This efficiency makes the head-up display increasingly interesting for electric vehicles. Allowing the driver to configure the head-up display conveniently via the controls in the cockpit is a particular advantage in vehicles which are driven by several people. This is made possible by the use of a stepper motor that tilts the optical mirror inside the head-up display, in turn changing the position of the floating image displayed to the driver above the engine hood.
Fit for mid-range vehicles – compact design and low manufacturing costs To enable the head-up display for use in mid-range vehicles, Continental’s engineers in Babenhausen, Hesse focused on developing two core requirements: Reducing size and weight and cutting manufacturing costs. The new layout of the optical components, which reflect the image from the display to the windscreen, has significantly lowered the number of overall components required. Combined with the intelligent use of modern materials, the developers were able to almost halve the volume and weight compared with the previous version. With a volume of just 3.8 liters and weighing 1.5 kilograms, the new head-up display can be integrated in the overall concept of a vehicle more easily by automotive manufacturers. The lower number of components is also advantageous for the manufacturing costs. However, the decisive factor for optimizing costs and manufacturing processes is the modular layout of the head-up display, which is designed in such a way that very few components are specific to individual vehicle variants. Consequently, fewer different components have to be prefabricated and the individual vehicle variants of a model can be served from just one production line. To switch production between, for example, the BMW 3 Series sedan and convertible, all that is needed is a different optical mirror that has been adapted to the vehicle-specific windscreen curvature. Its many years of experience with head-up displays have endowed Continental with both core competences in instrumentation and vehicle electronics and significant know-how in terms of optics and tool making. This wide-ranging knowledge enables Continental to produce most components itself and pass on the resulting benefits to its customers directly.
The future is altering reality – “augmented reality” in the head-up display Continental also uses its wealth of experience to drive the further development of head-up displays. In this respect, research revolves around “augmented reality”- where virtual screen content from navigation and driver assistance systems merge with the driver’s actual field of vision. In the future, information considered important will be highlighted directly in the area in which it occurs.
“Augmented reality is an exciting area of research for us,” explains Eelco Spoelder. “In case of a distance warning, the vehicle in front could be highlighted in the signal color red, for example, in the driver’s visual field. The driver would also be able to see directional arrows in the navigation system or a lane-change warning directly on the road.”
With sales of EUR30.5 billion in 2011, Continental is among the leading automotive suppliers worldwide. As a supplier of brake systems, systems and components for powertrains and chassis, instrumentation, infotainment solutions, vehicle electronics, tires and technical elastomers, Continental contributes to enhanced driving safety and global climate protection. Continental is also an expert partner in networked automobile communication. Continental currently has approximately 164,000 employees in 46 countries.