One of the big disadvantages of an instrument cluster is its location. A driver must look down to see the dials, which means his eyes are off the road for at least one second. In that one second, the car travels about 46 feet if it's moving at 30 miles per hour.
Siemens VDO is addressing this issue with a head-up display that is projected onto the windshield by mirrors. To the driver, the display appears to float above the engine hood, about six feet away. Vehicle speed will be one of the key elements of the display, but it can contain any element found in a normal instrument cluster. It can also integrate orientation aids that use images from infrared cameras to detect and display an outline of the road ahead. For a technology that dates back almost 100 years, that's a significant change for the better.
For more information on speedometers, cars and related topics, check out the links on the next page.