The Danger Of Head-Up-Displays
Not bad for a snappy title, huh?
OK, so here’s my thing - just after I first graduated, I worked on Head Up Displays (HUDs) for fast jets. These are the things that pilots look through, and all sorts of useful data gets projected, focused so that it appears to be miles ahead of the aircraft. If you’ve seen Top Gun (you’re probably in a minority of one if you haven’t), you’ll be familiar with the sort of thing they show - target data, heading, altitude and attitude. Stuff like that.
Anyway, great as they are, the big draw-back with HUDs is that they’re fixed and static at just over arms length in front of the pilot’s face. And with a maximum width of around 10-12″, that means that the pilot suffers from what’s called the porthole effect. They can only look at the world (with meaningful data projected onto it) through a narrow field of view - sometimes as little as ten degrees. So the pilot can become fixated with that narrow field of view, and all-but blind to things outside of it. It’s for this reason that helmet-mounted displays were developed.
What’s the relevance of this to you, me, and anyone else on their bikes? Or at least bikes that aren’t like mine, and don’t have a HUD made out of “borrowed” components fitted:
In winter, it gets frosty. Sometimes (like last night), it snows too. Yet how many times have you see drivers with just the smallest HUD-sized area cleared from their front windscreen, while all of their peripheral vision’s area still iced over, and they haven’t even bothered with the side windows.
If you’re not right in front of these guys, the chances are that they won’t see you. So:
- Take a more assertive road position: It sounds counter-intuitive, but you need to be more in the way just to be seen, and not less. So don’t be a gutter-bunny!
- Pay particular attention to cars turning onto your route from side-streets. If you can’t see the pilot driver’s face because the windows are iced / snowed over, he can’t see you
- Take extra care when passing parked cars - watch out for tell-tale exhaust fumes that could give you early warning that they’re about to pull out
- And always remember that when you’re on a bike, you need to pay attention over a full 360 degrees. So be more aware than even the most aware driver