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Updated driver information for increased driver support

Sep 10, 2013

  • Innovations for vehicle instrumentation will be part of the Frankfurt Motor Show IAA 2013 presentation by Continental
  • Autostereoscopic 3D displays in the instrument cluster
  • Free programmable instrument clusters will open up new possibilities
  • Larger head-up display marks the next evolution in driver information

Babenhausen (Germany), July 30, 2013. The international automotive supplier Continental is developing the elements of the future human-machine interface (HMI). Larger and higher quality display surfaces will support the driver in future vehicle generations. They help the driver to fully exploit the possibilities of their vehicle: "Modern cars offer drivers more and more support," says Eelco Spoelder, head of the Continental Business Unit Instrumentation & Driver HMI. "The development of new driver assistance systems and the evolution of automated driving functionalities also need advancements in the human-machine interface. During the Frankfurt Motor Show, we will present a sneak-preview of these technologies."

Here you can download the press release as a doc-file.

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Continental is not only integrating high-quality displays into the instrument cluster; the whole instrument cluster can just be one large display. The first use of such a free-programmable instrument cluster with innovative display capabilities can be found in the new 2013 S-Class from Mercedes-Benz.  At this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA 2013), Continental will also show the next evolutionary step for the head-up display (HUD): ten years after the first series production start of a full-color HUD, the company shows a HUD with a much larger display that is also capable of supporting the driver by introducing Augmented Reality functionality.

A whole new experience: The free-programmable instrument cluster

For years, the display area in the instrument cluster has been gaining in importance. "Our usage habits of consumer electronics directly influence the way we interact with displays in general," says Spoelder, "photo-realistic images and 3D animations are ways to realize intuitive driver information in the instrument cluster."

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Continental, for example, is currently examining how autostereoscopic 3D displays in the instrument cluster can assist the driver in a useful way, in its ergonomics laboratory in Babenhausen/Germany. This technique also has potential for a new type of instrument: the free-programmable instrument cluster, which consists of a single 12.3-inch TFT display. In this large display area a great variety of content can be combined seamlessly - from the conventional round display to the graphical implementation of spatial depth. It is even possible to adapt the free-programmable instrument cluster to the needs and wishes of the individual driver. Style, size and color of the display can be adjusted as easily as the overall amount of information shown.

Curved surfaces with touch functionalities

Besides their general attractiveness, there is one aspect that all modern displays have in common: they are flat, which makes harmonious integration into the car difficult. "We want to change this," says Spoelder whilst commenting on Continentals development roadmap, "We develop manufacturing procedures to realize, for example, touch screens with the usual functionality but with a curved surface." In combination with new materials – glass, for example – the designer can form new surfaces for capacitive touch screens or touch-pad controls in a way that they integrate seamlessly into the lines of the vehicle interior.

The evolution of the head-up display (HUD)

The head-up display is another one of the elements of the human-machine interface that is increasingly important because of the ever rising amount of information in the car. Today’s head-up displays reach a virtual display size above the car hood of 6 degrees (wide) by 2 degrees (high).

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With this size, head-up displays serve primarily as a display unit for vehicle and traffic related content. "The HUD moves selected data close to the driver's line of sight making it easily available," says Dr. Thorsten Alexander Kern, product manager for HUD in the Instrumentation & Driver HMI business unit of Continental.

The actual content consists of digits, simple graphics and text. However, the HUD requirements for future generations are rising in terms of image size and quality. Therefore Continental has integrated the Digital Micromirror Device (DMD) technology in the next evolutionary step for head-up displays.This technology already exists in modern true color home projectors. Compared to the TFT technology used today, this technology allows for higher magnification and thus a larger image size. "On larger display areas a broader range of graphical symbols can be used. Thus navigation arrows or an intersection’s geometry can be displayed in full color and in sufficient size. They also provide additional areas for the display of comfort functions", says Kern. At the same time, with DMD technology, the HUD lays the foundation for future instruments with augmented reality (AR). Such an AR-HUD will be able to project information directly onto the road and into the field of view and set it in relation to the real environment. "In the AR-HUD, navigation arrows can be displayed exactly at the point on the street where the driver has to act. The driver no longer needs to take away attention from the road" says Dr. Pablo Richter, Continental expert in HUD technology.