Speedometers go digital

Forget analog gauges, at CES 2011 a number of vendors showed off concepts for digital instrument clusters.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive 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.
Wayne Cunningham
Nvidia display concept
Nvidia had this 3D instrument cluster on display at CES, showing the capabilities of its Tegra 2 processor. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Digital automotive instrument panels at CES 2011 (photos)

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LAS VEGAS--Analog gauges in your car are so 1900s; this century it's all about to go digital. At CES 2011 we saw a number of concepts for entirely digital instrument clusters designed for the automobile.

Nvidia demonstrated a 3D instrument cluster running off its new Tegra 2 process, and considering that the company is working with Audi, BMW, and Tesla, there's a good chance of implementation. Visteon also showed digital instrument cluster concepts using Open GL 3D architecture. As an automotive supplier, Visteon is showing these to potential customers in the automotive industry. QNX also showed a digital instrument cluster as part of a dashboard running a next-gen infotainment system.

The advantage to automakers of a digital instrument cluster is that they need only install one piece, an LCD, in the dashboard during vehicle assembly. After the vehicle rolls off the line, they can program the instrument cluster into the car. This process would give flexibility, as the manufacturer could adjust the look and information on the fly. Likewise, the instrument clusters could also be configurable for the driver, only showing necessary information, thereby reducing distraction.

Digital instrument clusters are already being deployed. Mercedes-Benz used one for the speedometer of its S-class, and Jaguar has one in the new XJ. The Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt also sport digital displays.