Heads-Up Displays: Fighter jet technology in today's cars


Head-up displays (HUDs), which project vehicle speed and other information in the driver’s field of view, have been available since about 1990s on a small handful of luxury cars.

But with most of them based on basic LED technology of the time, information that could be displayed was limited at best. Cost, packaging, and reliability were also issues.

As automakers try to find new ways to reduce driving distractions in recent years, new LCD technology and cost reductions have allowed heads-up display systems to become more widespread like never before.

How it works

Fighter jets have used HUDs for years to keep vital information in front of pilots during combat situations. After all, keeping their eyes trained on the action in the heat of battle rather than on the cockpit instruments can mean the difference between life and death.

While a head-up display can take almost any form, the most common type in a car reflects its image directly off the windshield just below the driver’s line of sight. This is achieved by a special display integrated on the top of the dashboard and a specially coated windshield.


Just as in a jet fighter, the idea is that a head-up display helps the driver concentrate on what is happening on the road by displaying relevant information right in the driver’s line of vision.

What you get as you peer out past the steering wheel is a floating display with your speed and navigation directions. On some cars, the current audio playlist, collision warning and lane departure markings may also be displayed. 

In fact, thanks to the move from LED icon-based displays to configurable LCD monitors, automakers can display just about anything.

Today, head-up displays are widely available in many models from luxury marques including Audi, BMW, Lexus, and also the Hyundai Equus. In this category, buyers demand technology and are willing to pay extra for it.

However in the last year or so, heads-up displays have also made it to lower-priced vehicles thanks to a few clever innovations by engineers.

BMW 3-series4-series5-series6-series7-seriesX5X6


BMW offers an advanced full-colour HUD system on many of their models. You can see your current speed, but the 3×6-inch colour display also shows vehicle warnings (such as lane departure and collision alert), the current setting for the adaptive cruise control, and turn-by-turn GPS navigation indicators. You can also bring up your current playlist, or see who is calling on your Bluetooth connected phone.

BMWs HUD will adjust automatically to current weather conditions due to an ambient light sensor. Via the vehicle’s iDrive interface, owners can further tweak the brightness level, position and rotation of the display, or even what information they want (or don’t want) to see.

Audi A6A7A8


Audi’s full-colour heads-up display recreates the display philosophy of their Multi-Media Interface.

The 3.41×10.31 inch display is based on the latest TFT LCD screen technology and backlit by 15 energy efficient white LEDs. Like BMW’s system, a sensor constantly measures ambient brightness in front of the vehicle and the system adjusts the light intensity so that the display can be read perfectly at all times day or night.

Drivers can select what information they wish to have shown via the MMI, including the speed, navigation symbols, and lists of infotainment systems and displays for the driver assistance systems.



HUDs are finding their way into more vehicles, including lower-priced ones such as the all-new 2014 Mazda3.

Mazda’s optional system, dubbed their “Active Driving Display” is the first Mazda product with such a system and is more compact than other HUDs out in the marketplace. Traditional HUDs wouldn’t fit in the Mazda3 due how much space they require.


The Active Driving Display doesn’t project onto the windshield but instead onto a pop-up semitransparent lens on the top of the dash in the driver’s field of vision. Despite being fitted to a lower-priced vehicle, the Mazda3’s system also projects speed, cruise control settings, driver assistance system warnings, and navigation info. However it is not a full-colour display unlike those from the German auto manufacturers.


One extra benefit to this setup is reduced repair costs if the windshield gets damaged. Why? Because traditional Heads-up display systems require a special reflective windshield coating for the information projected on them to be visible. If a stray rock damages the windshield in the Mazda, it won’t be as costly to fix as the car uses a normal windshield.

MINI Cooper


The all-new 2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop, boasts even more tech than its predecessor, including a heads-up display system.

Like Mazda’s system, the full-colour HUD is not projected onto the windshield surface but instead appears on a semitransparent lens atop the dashboard in the driver’s field of vision.


Turn-by-turn navigation graphics, current speed and speed limit information, safety system warnings can be displayed and seen quickly and conveniently without the driver having to take eyes off the road.

From Toyota Prii to Mazda2s: A look at available fuel-efficient vehicles


With gas prices approaching $1.50/litre in Metro Vancouver this summer, the topic of fuel-efficient transportation is on a lot of people’s minds. Fortunately, with modern technology many manufacturers are able to squeeze more performance out of small engines, like Mazda with their subcompact Mazda2, or offer gas-sipping hybrids such as Toyota and their extensive lineup of legendary Prii (yes, that is the official Prius plural term).  For the consumer, that means there is something to suit virtually every taste and budget. Below is a look at what’s currently available on the market.


Fuel consumption*: 8.0 L/100 km city, 6.7 highway (manual)

Estimated annual fuel cost*: $1,625

The 100 horsepower produced by the Mazda2’s 1.5-litre engine might not seem like much, but with an impressive power-to-weight ratio and a manual transmission option, expect a lot of fun in the corners as you row through the gears. It’s quite well equipped for its class as well, with standard power door mirrors, locks and windows, MP3-capable head unit, USB inputs and 15-inch wheels. The car will undergo a complete change for the 2015 model year.

Honda Fit

Fuel consumption: 8.3 L/100km city, 6.4 highway (automatic)

Estimated annual fuel cost: $1,638

In its second generation and about to enter a third, the Honda Fit has been a popular choice for a wide demographic from budget-conscious students to families looking for an additional car. Like the Mazda2, the engine is also a 1.5-litre but makes slightly more power at 117 hp and 106 lb-ft of torque. Despite its sub-compact form factor, the Fit can still carry plenty of stuff with 585 litres of storage space behind the rear seats. Fold them down and the hatch will swallow up 1,622 L of cargo.

Lexus CT 200H

Fuel consumption: 5.5 L/100 km city, 5.8 highway (CVT)

Estimated annual fuel cost: $1,196

Paving the way for entry-level luxury hybrid vehicles to come, Lexus launched the CT 200H a few years back giving consumers the option of being eco-friendly while enjoying upscale features. Refreshed for this year, the front fascia gets the “Spindle Grille” as found on other models across the lineup, the rear spoiler has been redesigned, and the speakers now include bamboo-fibre components. The hatchback is powered by a 1.8 L Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder engine coupled with an electric motor making 134 net hp.

Toyota Prius

Fuel consumption: 4.7 L/100 km city, 4.9 highway (CVT)

Estimated annual fuel cost: $968

There can be no discussion of fuel-friendly vehicles without the mention of the Toyota Prius. Available in Canada since 2000, it now comes in four configurations (standardplug-in hybridthe smaller “c” and the “v” station wagon) and tops the Natural Resources Canada list for best in-class fuel efficiency year after year. Utilizing Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive technology, it has the same powerplant as the CT 200H that shifts smoothly between gasonline engine and electric motor.

There are just some examples of what you can expect when you walk into any OpenRoad Auto Group dealership in the Lower Mainland, with more on the way! For a full list of vehicles, visit openroadautogroup.com/new-cars.

* Based on the 2014 Natural Resources Canada Fuel Consumption Guide with revised federal testing methodology.

OpenRoad Mazda Grand Opening


The world-class OpenRoad Mazda building had its exclusive grand opening celebration on Friday, March 14, 2014. Mr. Akira Marumoto, Executive Vice President of Mazda Motors Corporation (from Hiroshima, Japan) and Mr. Kory Koreeda, President of Mazda Canada, joined Christian Chia, President & CEO of OpenRoad Auto Group, and Kirt Gill, General Manager of OpenRoad Mazda, with a “Kagami-Biraki” ceremony. Sake was served to all to celebrate the opening of harmony and good fortune for the new store.

Tantalizing delights were served by Tojo himself, of Vancouver’s famous Tojo’s Restaurant, crafting sushi for dozens waiting after the original large batch was gobbled before speeches began. Hapa Izakaya provided the second of a powerful one-two Vancouver punch, offering high-demand savoury canapes served by wonderful servers.

An open bar consisted of a massive supply of Sapporo beer, thanks to Sapporo Breweries.

Guests gathered in the showroom to watch Global TV’s Arran Henn direct the evening with a projected timelapse of the construction of OpenRoad Mazda looping with “Zoom Zoom” style videos overhead.

Uzume Taiko performed taiko drumming of traditional Japanese percussion instruments and later fused effortlessly with the hot beats being dropped by DJ Mary Mac.

It was a grand event with guests leaving invariably happy and proud of their new OpenRoad Mazda store.

See photos below or visit the OpenRoad Mazda Facebook page for full number of event photos.

OpenRoad Mazda Grand Opening Photos


Photos by Todd Duncan Studios