The last decade has seen an increasing use of LCDs in cars, primarily rectangular screens set in dashboards to show navigation, communications and stereo controls. At CES, one automotive electronics supplier showed the newest LCD panels that will replace the analog gauges in instrument clusters.
Visteon's exhibition went from the mundane, a set of normal LCD panels, to the truly cutting edge, a plastic OLED technology that promises low energy use, bright colors and a very thin form factor.
Automakers will likely find LCDs are more cost effective than analog gauges for instrument clusters. Each gauge needs to be custom-made for each car, with a specific style and placement for warning lights. With an LCD, an automaker can fit the same unit into multiple models, and program them with differing looks.
Although it has taken years of development time, OLED screens have become available in production televisions, and the technology will soon find its way into cars. The big challenge with the technology has been making the screen last for more than a few years, and survive the demanding environment of a car.
Its advantages are many, one being that the thin form factor can fit over a curved surface, giving automotive designers more freedom in shaping the dashboard. Low power use makes them exceptionally good for electric cars, as they won't impinge on range.
Another concept from Visteon, designed for a self-driving car, uses a large 4K monitor. When the human driver is in control, the display can show crucial driving information, and even warnings about obstacles from the car's sensors. If the driver switches to autonomous driving mode, she can use the 4K monitor for entertainment, video calls or almost anything else.
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