Pioneer preps laser head-up display for 2012

The system links to a smartphone to keep drivers updated with road conditions

Pioneer's prototype laser HUD on show at Ceatec 2010

Pioneer's prototype laser HUD on show at Ceatec 2010

Pioneer is developing a head-up display for cars that links in with the navigation function available on many modern smartphones. A prototype of the device is on show this week at Japan's Ceatec electronics show, and the company said it hopes to have a commercial model available in 2012.

The prototype uses a laser to display bright, high-contrast, full-color images on a screen that would be mounted above the dashboard, between the driver and the windscreen. To the driver the projected images would appear in the lower part of the windscreen.

The screen used in the prototype is about double the size of a car's rear-view mirror, which makes it larger than most current head-up display systems.

A demonstration model was hooked up to an Android-based phone and displayed a navigation map on the left-hand side and an animated Android robot on the right-hand side that passed on information to drivers. (A video of the display can be seen on YouTube.)

The cell phone provides the visual output and network connection that keeps the system updated with road conditions and other information.

"We are currently aiming for an after-market product, but we are talking with car manufacturers," said Masaya Hashida, tech manager at Pioneer's smart vision business development department.

A network link is becoming an increasingly popular feature in navigation systems. About 20 percent of systems sold in 2010 will include network connectivity and this will rise to 90 percent of systems, amounting to 27 million units, in 2017, according to forecasts released Thursday by InStat.

The most common feature in connected navigation systems is the ability to download the latest road conditions. Some systems use the link to update databases of convenience stores and gas stations, and some provide daily updates to gas prices.

"Static databases will become a thing of the past in automotive navigation during the next 10 years," Egil Juliussen, principal automotive analyst and fellow for iSuppli, said in a statement. "Connectivity means motorists will have multiple options in terms of on-board and off-board navigation resources."

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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