DETROIT – When the next generation of automotive navigation systems arrive, Denso Corp. expects the display to redefine the “human machine interface.”

Today’s onboard navigation systems generally appear on a color screen embedded in the instrument panel, as part of the center console. Denso is one of many suppliers of the current-generation systems.

Within five years, Japan’s No.1 supplier expects its navigation displays to be projected on to the windshield, in front of the driver.

“We are currently working with several customers on this new technology,” Matt Matsushita, president and CEO of Denso International America Inc., tells Ward’s after his keynote speech this week at the Convergence International Congress on Transportation Electronics.

“The turning point would be indicated on the windshield,” as well as the distance to the destination, he says.

Matt Matsushita, president and CEO of Denso International America Inc.

A Denso competitor, Siemens VDO Automotive, also has an advanced Head-Up Display navigation system that projects the map on the windshield. The color map replicates the road ahead, and an arrow appears to indicate when a turn is necessary.

The 2-color system is optional on BMW AG’s 5-Series and 6-Series. Siemens VDO also is displaying a 4-color version at Convergence this year.

Matsushita says Denso will offer a number of display options to auto makers, and that the ultimate goal is to improve safety by allowing drivers to get navigation information without taking their eyes off the road.

“At this time, every car manufacturer is trying to identify what is the best way in terms of the human-machine interface, and it may differ from one customer to another,” Matsushita says.

A 30-year auto-industry veteran, Matsushita took the helm of Denso’s North American operations in July after serving as executive vice president of Denso Europe.

In his speech Monday, Matsushita says his most exciting moments have been with auto maker customers. “Sometimes I was all ‘fists,’ fighting for the right thing,” he says. “In some cases, I saw a critical quality failure turn out to foster a positive grip on our ties with the customer.”

He disagrees, however, with the suggestion that the industry needs a new business model for supplier-OEM relations. “I believe in the good old business model in the auto industry: trust and customer value. The customer is the source of Denso’s innovation.”

Denso employs 95,000 people in 31 countries and reported 2003 sales of $24.2 billion, most of it in climate-control and powertrain products.

tmurphy@primediabusiness.com