Is BMW’s New Head-Up Panoramic Display Better Than a Dashboard Screen?

BMW’s Neue Klasse, its next generation of all-electric vehicles, is more than just a change of its powertrain. It’s a platform that looks to pioneer many new technologies that should make driving BMW EVs easier, more entertaining, and safer for the driver as well as everyone around them. One of these new technologies being paired with the Neue Klasse iDrive user interface is a new Panoramic Vision system. While BMW calls this a “Head-Up Display,” or HUD, we kind of wonder if it’s really one in the way we’ve always understood it.

The idea of keeping the driver’s eyes forward and on the road (and quick glances at the mirrors, of course) is why more and more manufacturers are installing HUDs. However, the small size of most HUDs don’t allow for a large display of information for the driver and are usually limited to just showing small groups of information (where you might get your speed, direction arrows for navigation, and a speed limit reminder) or singular large ones (where you have a screen with just a navigation map, information, tachometer, or other singular piece of information).

The BMW Panoramic View for the Neue Klasse wants to expand this by literally expanding the HUD display across the car. Rather than just a small square reflecting in front of the driver, this new HUD would span across the bottom of the windshield and, not only expand what the driver sees while keeping their eyes on the road, but also allow the front passenger to see in the same manner—kind of like the BMW i8 concept car’s windshield featured in the Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol movie.

This new HUD form factor would allow for a much cleaner dashboard as no large screens would unobtrusively depart from the look of the front passenger area. We could potentially, finally, get away from the scourge of tablets as infotainment and instrument panels with the Panoramic View. Except, there’s a bit of a small problem with it: it’s not exactly see-through like a HUD should be.

How Do HUDs Even Work?

HUDs have been used in cars for several decades now and really gotten to the point where they are rather useful. Some do it better than others, but overall the HUD has been a great piece of technology for the automotive industry. Much like the fighter planes that first utilized them, HUDs do as they say: keep the user’s head up and keep them paying attention to what’s ahead of themselves. To achieve this, a traditional HUD uses a screen that’s either reflected on a separate piece of glass or directly to the windshield. Regardless, the one thing a HUD traditionally does is allow for a relatively unobstructed view through the windshield while also projecting this image. Panoramic View doesn’t exactly do this.

You Can’t Really See Through Panoramic View

The way BMW is making this “HUD” work is by having a large black border where the images project onto. Oddly enough, they also demonstrate that they can project onto the clear portion of the windshield. If this is supposed to be the HUD of the future, why not project entirely on the clear windshield? Otherwise, you’ve just recreated the interior of the 2009-2022 Toyota Prius with extra steps. Something that the new 2023 Prius is getting away from thanks to Toyota’s dashboard tablet infection.

The only revolutionary idea here is that BMW’s projecting the screens onto a dark portion of the windshield and will include infotainment pages, which yes, should help keep people in the car focused on what’s ahead of them. It would be easier, and probably cheaper, to just put wide aspect ratio screens across the dash, not that we necessarily want that either. We’ll keep our minds open to this new BMW system until we try it out for ourselves on the road, probably around its planned introduction in 2025.

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