Johnson Controls takes the speedometer 3D

Specializing in human machine interface design, Johnson Controls brought concept and production instrument cluster designs to CES 2012.

Johnson Controls instrument cluster displays
Johnson Controls' 3D speedometer display moves the most critical information to the forefront. Johnson Controls

LAS VEGAS--At CES 2012, Johnson Controls showed off its HUD technology, currently used in the Citroen DS5, and a conceptual 3D instrument cluster.

In a private meeting room, Johnson Controls had two bucks set up, stands with automotive instrument clusters showing off its latest technology. The company, which does big automotive business with things such as the HomeLink system for opening garage doors, is pushing its human/machine interface capabilities in new dashboard instrumentation products.

The head-up display (HUD) system relies on a small, clear panel sticking up out of the dashboard, above the instrument cluster. A projection shows speed, navigation information, and whatever else an automaker might want to display. A HUD can help drivers keep their eyes on the road by putting critical information within the view out the windshield.

Johnson Controls instrument cluster displays
The Citroen DS5 employs Johnson Controls' head-up display. (Click for full-size image) Johnson Controls

Jeff DeBest, vice president for Global Electronics at Johnson Controls, pointed out that this technology is becoming less expensive, which is likely to make more automakers consider it for cars below $30,000, and even below $20,000.

Beyond the instrument cluster, Johnson Controls also builds infotainment and connectivity solutions, along with automotive body control modules.

DeBest said that Johnson Controls is anticipating and pushing open and updatable architecture for car infotainment systems. By open, he doesn't mean open source so much as standards-based and modular systems. He also sees an industry push toward reducing the number of processors in cars, going towards what he calls a "single box solution." Where every additional system in modern cars, from power-window switches to climate controls, has added small processors, much of that work can be consolidated in just a few more powerful processors.

Johnson Controls instrument cluster displays
These two displays showed off some of Johnson Controls' latest HMI work. (Click for full-size image.) Wayne Cunningham/CNET

On a more conceptual scale, Johnson Controls showed off an LCD-based instrument cluster, using 3D to simplify the information. That may sound counterintuitive, but the display manages to fit a lot of information in a small space. A speedometer ring dominates the display, with auxiliary information shown around the outside. Depending on the importance of that information, it may appear on top of the speedometer, or below it.

The 3D instrument cluster can highlight really critical information at the center of the speedometer ring. In the demonstration rig, the display showed what would happen if the car was closing on another car fast. A distance read-out and a representation of the car ahead gained prominence in the center of the display as the cars got closer.

Given the quality of the demonstration unit, it looks like this type of display is viable today, and it would just take an automaker to want to incorporate it into a new model.

About the author

Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET. Prior to the Car Tech beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine. He's also the author of "Vaporware," a novel that's available as a Nook e-book.

 

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