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Can an HUD safety feature make your car unsafe?

On Behalf of | Nov 9, 2022 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

Drivers tend to embrace technological enhancements designed to keep them, their passengers and other vehicles on the road safe. Unfortunately, many safety features can ultimately lead to dangerous unintended consequences.

Vehicle manufacturers, law enforcement and safety organizations pay special care in attempting to educate drivers on the dangers of distractions. Television commercials, safety pamphlets, billboards and radio spots constantly remind drivers that any activity can quickly become a deadly distraction. Unfortunately, there is a vehicle safety feature that can unintentionally become a distraction as well: a head-up display (HUD).

What is an HUD?

Historically, fighter pilots and military personnel used an HUD in advanced vehicles. The technology took critical information about the vehicle and projected it against the windscreen directly into the operator’s eyes. This meant that the pilot could receive data without taking their eyes off the distance to look at a control panel.

Fast forward to present day and this technology has made it to consumer vehicles. In some vehicles, an HUD is a standard inclusion. Unfortunately, while this technology is meant to keep a driver focused on the road, they can quickly become overwhelmed by the information presented and become distracted by the safety feature itself. An HUD can present a disturbing amount of data, including:

  • Vehicle speed
  • Tachometer reading
  • Weather conditions
  • Speed limit on current road
  • Name of road, neighbourhood or town
  • Upcoming construction or reported accidents
  • Turn-by-turn GPS directions
  • Cabin temperature
  • Audio information
  • Audio volume

Confronted with all this information, a driver can quickly become distracted trying to find data or take it all in. The driver might miss a vehicle from a side street that enters an intersection, and not have the time to safely react to it.

This type of unintended consequence is generally not mentioned in the safety brochures. Computer programmers and vehicle manufacturers designed these features to protect drivers. How is it possible they might backfire?

Unfortunately, drivers face distractions of all kinds while behind the wheel. Whether it is eating, drinking, talking on the phone, texting or personal grooming, any activity that takes the eyes off the road or the hands off the steering wheel could quickly become a deadly distraction. Even when taking advantage of a vehicle’s safety features, drivers must always remain attentive and in control.