Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Heads-up display technology is new, but not cutting-edge and not even particularly high-tech. As of late 2016, though, it’s not in that many cars. Sometimes, when people hear that the car projects information onto the windshield, they wonder if it’ll block your view and make driving more dangerous or distracted.

Not even close.

But What Is It?

Here’s how it works. There’s a see-through mirror paired with an LCD panel or an a LED panel on its own in the dash that you can’t really see. If you’re sitting in the driver’s seat, it’s behind the steering wheel, near the windshield. What you can see is the information reflecting off the glass, but it looks as if it’s hovering out there on the street in front of your car. Pretty cool, actually.

You’ll always get your speed information using an HUD. Most systems let you pick what else you see hovering in front of you. Some give you turn-by-turn navigation to your destination, some tell you what driving assistance systems you have engaged (such as lane keeping assist), some will even show you street signs if the car’s sensors can identify those.

All the information in the HUD will be relevant to driving tasks. You won’t see radio stations or text messages there; those are peripheral. You can deal with those at the next red light. The heads-up display gives you the most crucial information right in front of your eyeballs so you never have to move your gaze from the road ahead. It’s the opposite of distracting.

HUD adjustment Lexus GS-F
HUD adjustment in the 2016 Lexus GS-F

The HUD built into your car is totally adjustable, just like your steering wheel or your seat, so that you can see it no matter how tall or short you are. The adjustment may be a switch to the left of the steering wheel, or it may be buried in the menus of your infotainment system. Most systems also allow you to choose which information is displayed and how much is displayed, or even to turn it off. Don’t turn it off. It really is a clever bit of tech that keeps your eyes where they should be.

For the Past and the Future

There are aftermarket HUDs that you can buy and install. Several of them use your phone as the source of information. You place your phone in the device on the dashboard behind the steering wheel, and it will project the face of the phone onto a clear screen in front of the windshield. There’s usually an app for the phone that works with the device and keeps you from playing movies while you drive. Driving apps only, please and thank you. Don’t ruin it for everyone.

There’s potential in the future for HUDs to be an important part of semi-autonomous vehicles. As we hand over more control – not all the control — to vehicles, the car is going to need to keep us human drivers informed. Putting a message in the HUD where our eyes are likely to be trained anyway makes it more likely we’ll see that we need to take over the controls for a bit.

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