Microvision, a Redmond, Wash.-based company, is building a laser-based display that uses a red, green and blue laser as well as a mirror, which tilts to direct the beams. By adjusting the intensity of the lasers, the display produces differently colored pixels. The mirror scans horizontally and vertically, producing an image on the windshield made of lit pixels. The whole process is fast enough that the human eye can’t see the scanning, so the image looks steady.
Lasers produce brighter, more saturated colors than LED displays, and lighting up a single pixel at a time uses less energy. With only one mirror, the whole thing is also smaller than a similar version made of LEDs. Microvision’s display should be appearing in American cars sometime in 2016. Japan’s Pioneer Corporation already uses it and plans to release a version of it this year. The only downside is the cost of the green lasers necessary to make this work. Right now a green laser sells for about $200. To be worth mass adoption, and not be confined to high-end models, the whole display would have to be that price. The cost should start to drop, however, as several companies — Nichia, Osram Opto Semiconductors and Soraa among them — develop cheaper green laser technology.