Automotive displays; from mechatronic to haptic

27 July 2015

A requirement to construct a freely-programmable combined instrument featuring a display was on the agenda for automotive designers as early as the mid-1990s.

For marketing reasons, it was not an option to forgo the mechanical pointer at that time. What was needed was a mechatronic solution with a real pointer that operated in front of the display. 

To try accomplish the mechatronic solution, displays featuring holes for pointer axes were developed. These no longer had very much in common with simple displays. It was necessary to ensure no leakage of liquid crystal over a broad temperature range, that the display functions reliably as a primary instrument and, last but not least, corresponds to the designer’s specifications. With a need for 100,000 units, it was also necessary to guarantee the stability of the production process for this special model. 

Even today in the age of consumer electronics dominated by displays, there are special requirements for displays destined for the automotive sector. Combined instruments with virtual pointers are not only accepted by the market, but also demanded by the market. Quick liquid crystals and high-quality electronics are required to ensure that the pointer can move fast without wiping. Displays with a high contrast and the corresponding colour depth also enable a modern design that can be adapted to the respective brand and driving situation.

Supporting information is fed into the windscreen using light-effective HUD displays and contributes to road safety. The challenges facing manufacturers centre on the very high brightness required to achieve a high-contrast display, even in sunlight. The heat generated through the backlighting requires an absolutely thermally stable display. This is no trivial matter for liquid crystals, a fact that the few global suppliers of HUD LCDs are well aware of an account of long periods of experimentation.

Today, there is a clear trend towards the smartphone operating philosophy with touch input in the centre console. However, despite autonomous driving, comfortable and ‘blind’ operation should also be possible. Automotive displays will require gesture control and haptic feedback in the near future. Kyocera bases the company’s development for the next generation of haptic displays on the synergy of its camera production, manufacture of piezo actuators and displays.

The first prototypes for haptic feedback are already running. Ceramic piezo elements assembled at the front glass are the actuators for the movement. Due to the exact adjustment capability you get a click feeling by virtual feedback. Also the pressure force can be measured by the piezo features. This allows the user to feel a button and then to press it for action. By using special sequences of vibrations a push button, a piano keyboard, an increment wheel and much more can be programmed without large surface movement. 

Semi-autonomous driving and fully autonomous driving can only prevail if the driver has the feeling of being in control at any time if needed. To this end, the driver needs to be informed about all processes in and around the vehicle. This information is shown on displays and therefore requires that the display is designed ergonomically and prevents sensory overload. Work is carried out with automotive manufacturers to develop a HMI for the new generation of vehicles. The HMI must consider future marketing aspects, guarantee a high level of safety and be simple to operate. For these reasons alone, automotive display manufacturers need to be able to do more than just build good TFTs. 

Autonomous driving

For autonomous driving, data for the display first needs to be captured. For example, a microwave radar sensor can take distance measurements from the vehicle ahead. This allows a driving vehicle to independently maintain the correct distance and initiate an emergency braking manoeuvre if there is any danger. 

The radar sensor is supported by a camera that monitors the situation and instantly detects unforeseen objects, such as a ball rolling onto the road or a deer. Side-mounted camera modules capture rear traffic and blind spots. Information is also obtained through a network of other road users and stationary traffic control centres via telematics. These sensors are also used for automatic parking, delivering an invaluable advantage to SUVs in narrow car parks in particular. The best thing is that the telematics module can detect and display free parking spaces in advance. 

The automotive market is expected to continue to grow steadily in both advanced and emerging countries. In addition, it is also expected that the use of electronic components in automobiles will continue to accelerate, with further expansion of related markets such as electronic components and devices. 

Kyocera is contributing to those developments in a number of ways. For example, its industrial displays with integrated touchscreens act as an interface between man and machine. The company’s telematics modules also allow people to communicate with mechanical systems, while its cameras and sensors monitor inventories and the status of systems and products. Electronic control and sensor systems are based on its robust circuit boards.

Kyocera is also strong in the manufacturing of TFT LCDs which show bright colours clearly, even in intense sunlight. For eample, the new 10.4-inch XGA (TCG104XGLP) and 12.1-inch XGA (TCG121XGLP) TFT LCD modules feature 1024 x 768 pixel resolution and the latest high-efficiency, long-life LED backlights with brightness ratings of 1300 cd/m² (10.4”) and 1200 cd/m² (12.1”). Advanced Wide View (AWV) technology makes it possible to achieve an 85-degree viewing angle in all directions (left, right, top and bottom). The integrated Kyocera LED driver circuit allows backlight operation without the need for additional components. The new TFT LCDs are designed with a standard LVDS interface and offer a wide operating temperature range of -30°C to 80°C, ideal for outdoor applications.

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