Tech Buzz

Apple Car May Have a Smart, Sensor-Equipped Windshield

Apple might be working on a heads-up display for windshields, Trip Chowdhry, managing director of equity research at Global Equities Research, said in a note sent last week to the firm’s clients.

It will have built-in sensor technology, and the entire surface will function as a HUD. It may be a “completely new device,” he wrote.

The display measures between 27 inches and 50 inches and might be gesture controlled, Chowdhry told TechNewsWorld.

The largest iMac has a 27-inch screen, while an automobile windshield measures about 50 inches, he noted.

Talent Flocking to Apple

Meanwhile, Apple is scarfing up real estate in the Bay Area and probably is working on at least a couple of high-intensity projects — most likely in a couple of disguised buildings in Sunnyvale or Santa Clara, according to Chowdhry.

Apple also has been aggressively hiring smart engineers from various industries, he said, noting that the acceptance rate of job offers at Apple exceeds 90 percent compared to the Silicon Valley average of about 40 percent.

It’s not because Apple is luring them with money, either, Chowdhry suggested. Apple’s high acceptance rate probably has “more to do with the projects these people may be working on. There’s a lot of money in Silicon Valley, and any company can throw money at job candidates.”

Nothing New to See Here?

The Apple HUD rumors may be little more than noise, suggested Roger Lanctot, an associate director of research at Strategy Analytics.

“Everything described or illustrated has been shown by car makers or their suppliers previously,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Auto manufacturers last year offered HUD technology in 38 different models, primarily luxury vehicles from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and Lexus. The technology also is trickling down to the family car market. It’s available in the 2014 Mazda3 and the 2015 Hyundai Genesis, for example.

Suppliers such as Continental Automotive Systems and Panasonic Automotive are working on newer HUD systems, and some suppliers are offering augmented reality technology.

“Apple has hired enough talent to put some sort of concept together, but as for whether it’s aftermarket or OEM-targeted, nothing is clear,” Lanctot said.

“There is nothing new here — no cold fusion, no perpetual motion — just something that looks like 2D heads-up tech already available or in development elsewhere,” he pointed out. “This is some sort of Apple obfuscation exercise. The only thing that’s unclear is whether it’s a deliberate leak from Apple.”

HUD Technology’s Prospects

While HUDs today are “very dumb displays that are an extension of the instrument cluster, next-generation solutions are expected to be smart enough to integrate displays from the center stack, the instrument cluster, and the HUD from a single multimedia controller,” said Tom Hackenberg, a principal analyst at IHS.

Because those OEM design concepts depend a lot on integration strategies, they “might be of interest to Apple in conjunction with CarPlay controls or combined with Siri or gesture recognition,” he told TechNewsWorld.

A single HUD could incorporate 1080p graphics quality in a large-screen format, “but the value proposition seems limited to advanced driver assist,” Hackenberg said. “Anything beyond very basic information could easily be considered distracting.”

Sensors would be integrated systematically as part of the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, he added, noting that it’s “possible but not practical” to embed expensive sensors into the glass of the HUD itself.

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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