Ford tossed down the gauntlet on gee-whiz dashboard gauge clusters with the Smartgauge in the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid. Now supplier Yazaki is going one step further with a fully-reconfigurable concept cluster running on Linux.
Since many car consumers now eschew styling or performance for gadgets as a reason for selecting a new car, it's becoming readily apparent the next frontier in vehicle competition will be the interior. We're already a few innings into the game when it comes to ridiculously complex and expensive pampering gadgets like heads up displays, air conditioned seats, sat-nav, DVD players, automatic bottom wipers and the like, but the area which gets the most attention is still decidedly low-tech — the gauge cluster. With Ford bringing it's mildly distracting but ultimately useful Smartgauge to market, we're expecting the gauges, and what they do, to be the next big thing in questionably necessary Buck Rogers-esque gadgets.
The Yazaki system claims to be what so many concept car vaporware systems have done in the past, a fully reconfigurable, open-source gauge cluster able to display multiple levels of information simultaneously and look seriously crazy while doing it. The system is built around a thin film transistor LCD screen running on Linux guts, so every hardcore nerdlinger out there will automatically love it, plus it runs on the OpenGL graphics system so it's just like your favorite video games.
The displays can account for basically any data a manufacturer is interested in displaying, ranging from the obvious speed, tachometer, oil pressure and tempurature gauges to navigation with real time traffic, vehicle system overviews, backup camera views, and hybrid system status. It pretty much goes without saying we prefer nice, generic Autometer gauges, but this kind of fancy-pantsery makes us wonder if the grass really is greener on the other side.
Yazaki North America Introduces Advanced Instrument Cluster Prototype for Automakers
Freescale collaborates on reconfigurable display prototype, provides highly integrated Power Architecture™ processor
* Based on a peripheral-rich system-on-a-chip (SoC) processor which provides improved performance and lower system cost than conventional discrete solutions.
* Embedded Linux operating system for efficient development and reusable application.
* OpenGL ES 1.1 graphics API enables efficient graphics development and platform independent design.
* TFT LCD offers high resolution, vibrant, full color images.
* Integrated video input displays camera information for an efficient use of driver cockpit real estate.
* Unique lighting capabilities use light guide and minimum number of LEDs to offer styling flexibility and reduced complexity
* Tunnel overlay on LCD creates perceived depth for improving drivers' access to important information and unique vehicle platform styling.
CANTON, Mich., June 2, 2009 – Yazaki North America, Inc. (Yazaki), a leading
supplier of vehicle power and data solutions to the automotive industry, has
unveiled to automakers an advanced instrument cluster prototype designed to
enable Yazaki to create reconfigurable dashboard displays with vivid graphics that
enhance the driving experience. The instrument cluster prototype demonstrates a
versatile development platform to help reduce cost and time to market for a wide
range of dashboard designs used in entry-level to high-end cars, including hybrid
electric vehicles (HEVs).
Yazaki developed the instrument cluster platform in collaboration with Freescale
Semiconductor, the leading supplier of semiconductors to the automotive industry.
The platform is powered by Freescale's highly integrated MPC5121e system-on-chip
(SoC) processor, which is designed to deliver exceptional performance and feature-
rich user interfaces. The two companies worked closely together during the design
process to meet an aggressive development schedule and showcase a highly
customizable thin film transistor (TFT) liquid crystal display (LCD) platform for in-
vehicle instrument clusters.
"The instrument development platform demonstrates our ability to develop a fully
reconfigurable dashboard cluster in collaboration with industry-leading technology
partners like Freescale," said Michael Boyd, product manager at Yazaki. "This
successful joint development effort combined Freescale's silicon and software
expertise with our extensive experience in designing and producing a broad range
of instrument cluster products for automotive OEMs worldwide."
With proven global expertise as a vehicle information product developer and
integrator, Yazaki has provided significant technology breakthroughs to the global
instrumentation market. Yazaki's instrumentation offerings include analog gauge
clusters, head-up displays (HUD), compass modules, reconfigurable TFT LCD
displays, camera-based lane departure devices and collision avoidance warning
"Yazaki's new instrument cluster platform brings fresh innovation to displays for the
next generation of driver-friendly vehicles," said Ray Cornyn, director of automotive
microcontrollers at Freescale. "With this collaboration, Freescale adds its 30 years
of automotive semiconductor leadership to Yazaki's market-proven experience in
cluster design and in-vehicle electronics. The resulting development platform will
enable automakers to create highly differentiated dashboard displays customized to
driver and market preferences."
Advanced instrumentation concept
The instrument cluster development platform is designed to enable three-
dimensional graphics within a single LCD screen. The integration of an LCD in a
typical automotive cluster often results in a flat, 2D monitor appearance. By
displaying information like indicators, fuel gauge and speedometer on different levels,
and adding tunnels and a tapered bezel over the LCD, Yazaki provides a human-
machine interface (HMI) with multi-level 3D-like information that appeals to today's
The instrument cluster platform combines analog gauges and a high-resolution
display with bold lighting and styling. The platform addresses the need for rich
information content in a single LCD space and enables automotive OEMs to develop
simulated analog instrumentation, a popular feature in dashboard designs.
By developing custom HMI designs for their vehicles, automakers can enhance their
brand identity with "signature clusters," providing a high degree of driver
personalization. The platform and graphics displays are easily customizable for
unique OEM automotive designs and target markets. When used in hybrids, the
reconfigurable instrumentation also displays useful HEV information such as driver
and vehicle performance and environmental impact.