In-dash navigation and entertainment systems are great if you're the driver, but not so much fun for the front passenger. Not only do those riding shotgun have their navigational responsibilities usurped by an electronic processor, they're also forced to wait until the car is stopped to watch movies or even program in a destination.
There is a good reason behind this, of course--drivers can't have the distraction of a movie playing while racing along in the fast lane of the freeway, and punching in a destination on the touch screen is a dangerous diversion from the road. But wouldn't it be great if there was some way of letting front passengers have their own in-car entertainment experience without it affecting the driver?
Delphi might just have the answer. Here at CES 2007, the auto parts manufacturer is showcasing what it calls its dual-view display with a dual zone of control. The system is based around an innovative LCD display that shows one image to the driver and one to the passenger. It works by adding minute louvers to the surface of the screen, making half the screen's pixels visible from one side, and half from the other. It may sound like science fiction, but we've just had a demonstration and it works just as advertised.
With this dual-view function, the driver and front passenger then get their own individual information and entertainment menus, which are controlled by a common dial-and-button interface located in the center of the dash. The car knows who is reaching over to program the system by the presence of a "light curtain" down each side of the center stack, which is broken when either the driver or passenger reaches over. This way the system know which content to put on each of the screen's two views: if the driver reaches over and tries to turn on a movie, for example, the system will lock him out.
The dual-zone interface is still only a prototype, but it looked pretty good installed in a Ford Mustang and may well be the salvation of discontented front passengers in the future.