When you look at the instrument cluster (IC) in your vehicle, you probably don’t think much of it; some combination of needles, numbers and gauges.
But all that could soon change. Modernisation efforts are sweeping through the instrument cluster space as automakers in North America and Europe work to provide consumers with a unique driving experience. Analogue gauges in cars will become obsolete by 2021, according to Frost & Sullivan, giving way to hybrid and fully digital ICs with flexible designs that facilitate personalization.
“Hybrid ICs, which include both analogue and digital components, will become a standard feature in most vehicle segments and platforms post 2017,” says Frost & Sullivan Automotive and Transportation Senior Research Analyst Ramnath Eswaravadivoo. “Hybrid ICs will continue to grow popular as the decreasing prices of graphic processors and control units make the integration of 3D graphics into hybrid ICs feasible.”
Next-generation ICs will feature customizable dials and advanced liquid-crystal-display (LCD) quantum dot displays containing detailed, relevant information. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and tier I suppliers are also working on integrating the centre stack into the IC, thus displaying all necessary data in the driver’s line of sight and reducing distraction.
While the “virtual cockpit” will be limited to premium-segment vehicles, fully digital clusters that will be standard in about 20 percent of cars will also be offered as an option on medium-segment.
By 2021, about 82.2 percent of vehicles shipped across Europe and North America are expected to be deployed with hybrid ICs, and the other 17.8 percent are expected to be fully digital ICs.
The falling costs of LCD panels and related electronics are turning fully digital ICs into an affordable alternative too. Low- and medium-end OEMs prefer digital clusters that lower distraction by displaying only the information that the driver currently requires. Additionally, digital ICs can dynamically change the information shown as the driver shifts from one mode to another, and OEMs can add new functionalities into a digital cluster by merely changing the software.
With digital ICs gaining traction, the need for software tooling is also heating up. However, the increasing instances of software failures could slow down adoption in North America and Europe.
“Constant software upgrades will be crucial to improve customer retention,” observed Eswaravadivoo. “In addition, as the use of software drastically goes up, OEMs must expand their services and collaborate closely with technology enablers to manage the issue of cybersecurity.”