Ford collaborates to create displays

DETROIT - Ford Motor Co. and Microvision Inc. are exploring ways to move information off the instrument panel and in front of the driver.

Microvision, of Bothell, Wash., is developing a display projection system that produces transparent images - from driving gauges to maps - in the driver's field of vision.

The major difference from the head-up display system already in production on several General Motors vehicles is that the Ford-Microvision system envisions the driver wearing a headpiece.

The advantage to that strategy is that the driver is able to see information, even when he turns his head. Such a system also could be useful for a nighttime obstacle detection system that could sense people or animals off to the side of the vehicle.

The GM system projects data onto the windshield, but the driver has to position the display to see it.

In May, Microvision said it had signed a contract with Ford to collaborate on the system. Terms were undisclosed. Neither company would say when the system might be introduced.

"It's one of a number of long-term advance applications our research lab is looking at," said Ford spokes-man Brendan Prebo.

GM's head-up display shows speed and radio dial information. GM is exploring adding transparent maps.

"Our head-up display is not meant to be stared at," said Al Finch, GM advanced development engineer. "We're planning on a graphic presentation of a specific area of a map that allows the driver not to have to focus" on extensive mapping.

Microvision, which supplies technology to the military, says its package is small enough to fit in a cellular phone, which would make the information portable.

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