Still, Ford’s engineers had an irresistible idea for a glitzy new breed of HUD (so advanced that they still haven’t spoken about it publicly), so they forged ahead. And because King had honed his systems engineering skills in the aerospace industry, he seemed the likely candidate to make it happen.
Making it happen, however, was no easy task. To start, King had to work with the body interior team to carve out the necessary space, finding new routing for ducts, wiring, and beams. Then his team had to bring in a new type of windshield, with tolerances tighter than anything they’d ever seen. After that, team members went back to the design studio to make sure the windshield could be shaped in the proper way to accommodate the HUD. Finally, they worked with Ford’s customer service division to ensure dealers would have proper training on the strange new display technology.
King’s contribution was to orchestrate the integration of the system into a vehicle platform that had previously been established with no thought to the addition of a HUD. And to do that, he had to unite team members behind a common, albeit difficult, goal. “Since we had never done it before, there was no plan, no process in place to help us shoehorn the HUD into the car,” King recalled. “All of it had to be created from scratch.”
Orchestration, however, is King’s specialty. A systems integration expert with an M.S. in mechanical engineering and an MBA from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, King had worked on pioneering technologies from the beginning of his career. He started out designing ballistic interceptor missiles, later coming to Ford to develop active safety systems. His previous experience in the aerospace industry, where HUDs are commonplace, added to his comfort with Ford’s effort, as did the fact that he had three family members who had worked for Ford.
King is confident that Ford’s HUD effort will be well received by consumers. Marketing tests have proven the HUD to be popular with potential vehicle buyers, especially millennials who’ve grown up with video games. “Ninety-nine percent of the drivers who use this HUD say they have to have one,” King told us. “It takes 15 minutes of driving and they get used to it. Then they say they can’t live without it.”
Ford is saying little about how the new technology will work, but they are acknowledging that it will be launched in its Lincoln brand later this year, and possibly propagate across Ford vehicle lines later.
King is optimistic, not only because of the consumer tests, but because he believes the technology offers common sense benefits. “In my vision, HUD is a key asset for enhancing the driving experience,” he told us. “It gives you the opportunity to keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.”
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