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The Car Windshield Is Turning Into a Computer Screen

To keep drivers' eyes on the road, cars are getting a third display to project information: the windshield

Cars are running out of screens. The dashboard is a jumble of numbers, icons, indicator lights, and gauges. In some vehicles, the display built into the center console is bigger than our televisions in certain rooms at home. But drivers' and passengers' appetite for more information isn't subsiding, so the dashboard and entertainment console are about to get a companion: the windshield.

At the Detroit auto show, which runs until Jan. 25, you'll find demonstrations of cars with built-in projectors displaying speed, range, turn-by-turn directions, and other crucial data along the bottom of the windshield. Head-up displays—developed to keep fighter pilots' eyes on the sky rather than on the instruments in the cockpit—have existed in some form for cars since at least the 1980s, but they've mostly functioned as a novelty for high-end clientele. In the past year, however, HUD technology has made its way into some Mazdas and Priuses as a way to manage information overload for everyday drivers.