An Insight Into Neonode’s Object Detection for Head-Up Displays
Per Nohlert has been with Neonode for five years, taking on different management roles ranging from Product Management to Marketing and now Business Development. In his current position, Per has had the opportunity to delve deeply into the inner workings of Neonode's offering and customer needs.
Today, Per is giving us an introduction to one of Neonode’s latest product offerings, which quintessentially highlights the essence of Neonode R&D: solving a specific problem for a part of the market that is often overlooked.
What is the background to Neonode’s work on Head-Up Display technology?
Even though Neonode is smaller than may other automotive suppliers, we have a solid track record with human-machine interface (HMI) solutions within the automotive industry. We have good relations with many automotive OEMs and their tier-one suppliers, so we are very aware of the needs and requirements in the sector.
As we see the market for Head-Up Display (HUD) solutions growing rapidly, we believe that this is an interface that will gather much more of the driver’s attention in the years to come. With this in mind, we believe that the importance of making the system aware of any interference with the display will become a crucial safety measurement. Neonode's technology immediately detects obstructions or interferences in the HUDs projection area, ensuring display visibility.
We have been working with automotive OEMs for many years and our zForce technology platform, the very same technology that now powers our HUD Object Detection solution, has already been deployed in some five million vehicles through our OEM partners in the industry. This familiarity with Neonode and our excellent track record within the automotive industry prompted automotive customers to make us aware of a challenge with HUDs.
What is the challenge exactly?
The way modern car HUDs work is that a bright image is projected in front of the driver’s eyes – right on the windshield. The information displayed has traditionally been trip-specific information, such as speed, traffic signs and driving directions.
Compared to the traditional approach of displaying this type of information on the dashboard, HUDs are beneficial from a safety point-of-view. By displaying key driver information across the windshield, it allows the drivers to keep their eyes on the road instead of frequently shifting focus to the dashboard – away from the road ahead.
Now, automotive OEMs are pushing to present even more information on these displays.
The overall image quality for HUDs is improving quickly, which has inspired automotive OEMs to invest more into the technology. We will see HUDs moving from small displays to larger ones in new dimensions, spanning across the driver’s field of view.
In some cases, HUDs will even fully replace traditional clusters of dashboard displays, which in turn requires the system to be even more robust. This is where Neonode’s technology comes in.
It has to do with Object Detection?
Exactly! The display which is responsible for projecting the information on the windshield is often placed on top of the dashboard. This is an area where drivers often store objects such as parking tickets, coins and other items, all of which risk blocking the display projection and thus information critical to the driver.
Our zForce optical sensing technology is extremely sensitive, allowing it to detect foreign objects that are smaller than a millimeter across or as thin as a fraction of a millimeter. It is also easy to integrate without adding any noticeable change to the design of the HUD unit.
Can you elaborate on how the technology works?
zForce, which is an infrared-based optical sensing technology, comes in two different variants, blocking and reflecting. For HUDs, we are using the blocking variant where an array of photoelectric sensors emits and receives light signals that cover the display area. When a foreign object is placed within the sensing area, it will block the light signal from reaching the opposing side – which the zForce system reliably detects in real time.
You mentioned that OEMs are investing more into HUDs. Is that a common trend?
Yes, it is already taking the center stage for certain premium models and it is not a wild guess to think that it will trickle down to more common models as well. Another contributing trend is OEMs’ ambition to save interior space in low and mid-end models by replacing conventional cluster displays with HUDs. In other words, we see our technology making its way into vehicles across all price ranges down the line.
With HUD technology on the rise, we are ready help usher it into tomorrow’s vehicles while also making sure that driver safety remains uncompromised.