How Optics Can Help Prevent Distracted Driving

Optical Solutions Editorial Team

Feb 11, 2020 / 1 min read

Recently I’ve been learning how heads-up displays (HUDs) can help reduce the safety risks caused by distracted driving.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving is driving with your attention diverted by any other activity. Certainly, driving while looking down at a phone to type a text message or to select a song from a playlist qualifies as distracted driving. But what about using the navigation functions in a car? Even if the navigation screen is on the console and centered in the dashboard, looking at it for directions creates distraction and diverts the driver’s eyes from the road.

Distracted driving accounted for nearly 10% of fatal crashes according to NHTSA statistics for 2017, and injuries and deaths from traffic collisions continue to rise. It is interesting to think about how compact, affordable HUD technology in vehicles could help reverse this trend. With HUDs, information can be displayed near the driver’s line of sight, such as turn-by-turn mapping and vehicle speed, to minimize distractions and allow the driver to stay focused on the most important task: driving.

Optics and HUDs to Improve Safety

Once only available in military applications, HUDs are common in automobiles today. At first, automotive HUDs were only available in luxury vehicles. Today, HUDs are available in many automobile makes (from Toyota, Ford, and Volvo to BMW, Mercedes, and Jaguar). This is a direct result of the hard work of engineering teams to make more compact, affordable optical systems for HUD products.

Most automotive HUDs use the windshield as the combining element. It is called a “combining” element because it combines the projected HUD information with the view to the world in front of the driver. This can also be accomplished using a secondary screen in the HUD optical system, but this approach is less common.

For people working in this exciting area of technology: thank you for your work to make the roads safer! At Synopsys, we are supporting HUD innovations with optical software tools to design, optimize, and analyze compact HUD systems.

To see how our CODE V and LightTools software can help solve HUD design challenges, request a demo.

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