Heads-up displays (HUDs) are so Top Gun they should come with a cheesy 80s soundtrack, pulsating in day-glo neon colours and with “Maverick” stencilled on the side. But they’re no longer the preserve of fighter pilots alone. Could HUDs make it to Formula E racing?
The technology is certainly there to make it happen. Reevu aims to bring a HUD-enabled motorbike helmet to market within the next two years (pictured above). There are already HUD systems available to for use inside snowboard and ski goggles. Defence engineering firm BAE is at work on the next generation of intelligent helmet, which stitches together multiple camera angles into a wide panoramic view, boosting soldiers’ peripheral vision, especially when using light enhancing tech at night. And many road cars now come with simple HUDs, which beam information onto the windscreen to reduce the time taken by a driver to look down at the dashboard.
On the other side of the pond, the Rockwell-Elbit helmet being developed for use in the advanced F35 fighter jet will use cameras situated all over the aircraft body to enable the pilot to literally look through the aeroplane, offering a truly seamless, uninterrupted view: X-ray vision, meet US Air Force.
There have been just a few teething problems in the development of the F35 system – such as pilots being so disorientated by the time lag that they’ve been unable to continue flying. And there’s the cost of this wonderful stuff to consider. The F35 helmets reportedly come with a $500,000 price tag attached. That’s per item. This Vanity Fair article carries a rather bruising description of the helmet: “a total fuckup from start to finish”.
Open cockpit cars don’t have the luxury of those sweeping glass windscreens, of course, and the latency and cost issues could rule the top-end tech out of motorsports. However, HUD technology has already been tried in Formula 1 in years gone by (albeit without lasting impression). Using HUDs in open cockpit racing could throw up a host of advantages. In F1 in particular, so much data is available to the team rather than the driver that often it seems the team is calling the shots, rather than the guy or girl in the hot seat.
In contrast, HUDs could give the Formula E driver quick access to an abundance of cyclable, visual information, such as real time track position charts, who’s pitted and when, battery management information, external camera views – or even a Twitter feed.
It could be the future of racing. And we’d love to see it. Would you?