From BMW, Mazda to Mercedes, The Curious Case of Integration of the Car Head-up Display with Infotainment

From BMW, Mazda to Mercedes, The Curious Case of Integration of the Car Head-up Display with Infotainment

Head-up Display (Car head-up display) technology has been around since the World War II. It was developed for the fighter jet planes to engage the enemy aircrafts and targets without any distractions.

In the 80’s, it did make its presence felt in the automobile industry but in a very basic form.

Come 2018, the Heads-up Display (Car head-up display) has come of age and evolved courtesy cutting edge automotive electronics, embedded software and hardware.

The implementation of Augmented Reality (AR) has made head-up display an important part of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).

Innovations in automotive electronics have led to the development of Car Head-up Display that can display valuable information right in the field of view of the driver.

This mitigates the distraction caused by the Infotainment fitted mostly in the centre of the car dashboard.

In fact, the automotive OEMs are looking forward to integrating the Vehicle Infotainment and Car Heads-up Display systems so that they can complement each other and assist the driver better.

Car Head-up display

Source: Opel Cars

Drivers of the Car Head-up Display (head-up display) Market

  • Adoption of ADAS by Automotive OEMs: The OEMs are likely to include more ADAS applications in the vehicles in the next decade. Those systems that help in monitoring the road conditions and issuing advance warnings to the drivers are being primarily focused. Heads-up display is considered to be one such critical ADAS product.
    In addition to the luxury cars that are already being fitted with advanced Car head-up display, the OEMs, including the electric vehicle start-ups, are looking to introduce Head-up Display to the budget cars as well.

    Aftermarket suppliers like Navdy and Continental are already investing heavily in heads-up display and infotainment solutions.

  • Consumer’s demand for in-vehicle safety features: The car consumers are more concerned about their safety. News of passenger cars not passing the stringent global crash tests has been one of the reasons for their worry.
    A Car Head-up Display may not be helpful when a collision happens but its ability to prevent accidents is known to all.

    The automotive OEMs have acknowledged these requirements of the consumers and are collaborating with different suppliers or investing in their own R&D.

The Early Bird OEMs Who Have Embraced Head-up Display Technology


BMW has been one of the pioneers when it comes to embracing Head-up displays. Different variants of head-up displays integrated with infotainment systems have been installed in the BMW cars depending on their models and cost.

The 7 series BMW has by far the most advanced head-up display that takes input from the infotainment system. The head-up display displays lane exit warnings, shows speed limit and also lets the users answer or reject calls.


Called the Active Driving Display, the head-up display system in Mazda 3 and Mazda 6 is slightly different from BMW.

There is a combiner glass that opens up as you turn the ignition on. The information is projected on this glass, unlike BMW, Volvo and Mercedes where the display is projected on the windshield.

Again the head-up display in this car too, is controlled by the infotainment system. The user can control what to see on the head-up display, viz. navigation, street info, tachometer etc.


Mercedes has always been on the top of the game when it comes to integrating technology to the car. The same is true for the heads-up display.

Although the head-up display is integrated to the in-vehicle infotainment system, there is a separate button to switch it on. The head-up display can be customized for brightness, position and content to be displayed by the buttons on the steering wheel.


Known as the safest vehicle, Volvo has also included head-up display in its most popular model XC90. The option to activate the head-up display is in the infotainment systems.

All that a user has to do is to choose head-up display as the display and information such as vehicle’s speed, navigation, etc will be displayed on it.

A small projector resting on the dashboard projects the image on to the windshield. One interesting feature that this head-up display boasts is that it remembers the driver’s seat preferences.


Jaguar offers a similar form of head-up display where the car’s info is projected on the windshield; however, what makes it stand out is the use of laser holographic technique.

This feature does not let the sun glare affect the visibility of the information.

The Integration of the Infotainment System with the Car Head-up Display

There has been a long-standing debate about the infotainment system as more of a distraction than a utility to the drivers, especially when they are using the navigation feature or get a call while driving.

They have to shift their focus from road to the infotainment systems which affects driving for obvious reasons. An head-up display by the virtue of its design and positioning on the dashboard mitigates this distraction to a large extent.

Now the real magic happens when these two automotive systems are integrated. By integrating the head-up display and infotainment systems, the OEMs are able to save cost on the hardware substantially.

The Infotainment software is built on top of the hardware and simply relays the desired information like speed, navigation, etc. to the heads-up display.

The head-up display need not be connected to the OBD port in this case. A projector sits on the dashboard and reflects the info on the combiner glass which in turn is reflected on the windshield.

What information will be reflected by the projector of the head-up display is either decided by the OEMs or the consumers themselves, depending on the degree of customization provided.

Advantages of an integrated head-up display and infotainment systems

  • Driver’s distraction is mitigated.
  • Single hardware serves both infotainment systems and head-up displays thus reducing the cost for OEMs.
  • An external Smartphone need not be connected to the head-up display.
  • No OS needs to be installed on the head-up display.

Where’s the Head-up Display Market Heading?

An head-up display is not meant to replace an infotainment systems but to complement it and OEMs are doing exactly that.

Heads-up display systems are being adopted quite rapidly in the high-end cars and it is about time that they also find inclusion in the budget car category.

Report by Grand View Research, Inc suggests that the head-up display market is expected to grow at a CAGR of approximately 26% and will be worth USD 9.02 billion by the year 2020.

Going by the pace of the innovation in car head-up display and infotainment system, we can witness features that would make driving easier, safer and more entertaining.


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