Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Digital dashboard: your car’s next instrument panel will be one big LCD

LCD instrument panels are coming, trickling down from a handful of expensive cars today to affordable cars. You need an LCD display in front of you to process all the information you’re getting from the car and connected devices. Any car instrument panel tells you how fast you’re going and how mLCD instrument panel. They’re on a dozen premium car models today. Affordable cars are getting hybrid displays in the instrument panel: The speedometer, tachometer, and fuel gauge are traditional mechanical devices; inset among them or in a bottom strip is an LCD display that can show all the other information.
uch fuel remains. When you also want to see navigation instructions, song info, hybrid battery efficiency, and the name of an incoming caller, it’s time for a big-screen

The car instrument panel is following the lead of the center stack in going to LCDs. The instrument cluster or instrument panel is what’s on the far side of the steering wheel. The center stack is where the radio/head unit and climate control knobs live. Within five years (by 2017), nearly two thirds of cars sold in North America will have a center stack with a display radio, or head unit with an LCD of at least 4.5 inches rather than a dumb, one- or two-line text display, according to IHS Automotive, a Minnesota consulting group. Try scrolling a thousand-song smartphone list on a text display for quick proof of why you want an LCD display. As for the instrument panel, 85% of cars will have at least a partial LCD and more than 10% will be full LCDs. “Infotainment is the main driver for most display radios,” says Mark Boyadjis, an IHS senior analyst. “Safety is the main driver for LCD displays in the instrument cluster or small displays in the head unit.” The US is requiring all cars built by September 2014 to have a rear camera and display in the cockpit. An LCD backup (reversing) camera display embedded in the inside mirror is acceptable, too, though they’re small and can be affected by sunlight.

The industry hasn’t yet settled on a term for an instrument panel that uses an LCD or brighter OLED, so you’ll hear digital dashboard, virtual instrument cluster, reconfigurable instrument cluster, glass cockpit (borrowed from the aviation industry), and digital instrument cluster display (ICD) used to describe the instrument panel of the near future. Information presented in the instrument panel is easier to see at a glance because the driver just looks down, not over and down as with center stack displays. A head-up display is even better, but the cost is around $1,000 and some drivers find them distracting even when they show a pared-down subset of info (speed, cruise-control speed, next turn).

Full digital ICDs have been on a handful of cars for 3-4 years. Jaguar and Land Rover were early pioneers in full digital ICDs with the Jaguar XJ and Land Rover’s Range Rover (pictured above). Both use 12.3-inch LCD panels.

At the very least, a full digital instrument panel usually lets the driver switch between a digital and analog speedometer, or even have the digital readout set inside the analog speedometer gauge. Switching from miles to kilometers is a snap when you drive in Canada or Mexico. It could allow the over-40 driver to increase the font size of information. For old farts who maybe shouldn’t be driving at all, the text could be really big. For the forty-something driver who needs reading glasses and isn’t wearing them, or who has sunglasses ground only for distance vision, larger fonts would make make the make the cockpit information more legible. So far, automakers haven’t rushed to implement sizable fonts, even though they talk a good game about being sensitive to the boomer population.

Cadillac XTS: Move apps from center stack to instrument panel

The most recent car to make a splash with a full LCD instrument cluster is the full-size Cadillac XTS (pictured at the top of the story), announced in the spring, and followed by the compact Cadillac ATS sport sedan, with a partial digital ICD. It, too, has a 12.3-inch, 1280×480 panel.

Cadillac XTS balanced displayThe Cadillac XTS display is highly but not infinitely configurable. First, you can set four themes for the instrument anel display, called Simple, Enhanced, Balanced (photo), and Performance, with less or more information. Then you can tinker with the display elements. The 3-inch center of the speedometer (middle gauge) can be a digital speed readout or a moving map. This is part of the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) infotainment package that also includes an 8-inch capacitive touch center stack LCD. The XTS driver can swipe or flick windows of information from the center stack over to the instrument panel LCD.

But you can’t make the map any bigger in the instrument panel or move it to the seemingly underused gauge on the right. Boy racers believe the tachometer (left gauge) redline should point straight up in a properly sporting car run at the track, but that is something you can’t do, a Cadillac marketing manager said with a bit more NFW emphasis than I thought the question called for. It goes without saying that you can’t download an instrument panel template and roll your own interface. Yet. Hackers, take your marks…

No comments:

Post a Comment