The Digital Cockpit And How It Will Change The World Of Driving
Back in 2016, we were given the first glimpse of a self-driving future. Automakers were focusing on giving us ways we could entertain ourselves in our cars, get real time information about locations as we were passing through them, and the ability to work on the go while commuting. It’s going to be 2019 in just a month, and that future is looking a lot more concrete.
Now, carmakers are talking about delivering a more personalized experience, using integration of current technology from home and mobile space like voice assistants, and blending it all together into the automobile experience. But the cherry on top of the cake is the autonomous driving technologies, which is slowly being rolled out to the public. It is estimated that by 2020, there will be a certain percentage of vehicles on the road that will have autonomous functionality.
Which brings us to the point of the “Digital Cockpit”. As automobile controls and interfaces are continuing to go digital, we’re seeing more and more carmakers integrating the digital cockpit into their vehicles. The past few years have seen the digitization of the center stack in cars, particularly in infotainment, but it is forecasted that there will be an increase of digitalization in almost all touch points. Factoring in a variety of cost effective screen technologies, like OLED and QLED, there is no doubt that this will bring more information and visualization capabilities to car displays. Touch interfaces will enable clean dash designs, save weight, and will be easier and cheaper to manufacture.
The head-up displays (HUD) will also become more prevalent in modern cars, and will be way more informative. These futuristic HUDs will deliver more augmented-reality types of experiences for the driver, and give more informative navigation, driver alerts, and real-time information about road conditions, parking, and pertinent location-based information. Technology has allowed for even the on-windshield HUDs, using photo-luminescent nanomaterials, as well as through-windshield HUD using holographic film, which just a few years ago were the stuff of science fiction. As cars transition to have more autonomous features, it will almost be certain that the richness and immersiveness of the information available on HUDs and screens to drivers and passengers will increase.
But more important than just a digital center for the car, the ability to personalize every digital cockpit is vital in the automakers’ plans. The technology must allow drivers and passengers to configure and change the kind of information they want to see. Voice assistants like Google, Siri and Alexa will also help enable familiar, intelligent voice control over car functions like HVAC, infotainment, and navigation. In all, there must be a digital ecosystem that allows for control over the entertainment, information and automation as dictated by the people sitting in the car.
Personalization of the digital cockpit is currently a battle, as giants like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are dominating in the auto infotainment systems. These systems have brought some of the personalized experiences from mobile phones into a screen in the cockpit to enable a safer driving experience and making a more seamless transition of information from your mobile life into the car.
However, while the digital cockpit is becoming crammed with more and more digital features, a look behind the dashboard shows a much more disturbing fact. U.S. auto supplier Visteon Corp VC.N has found out that the electronics holding it all together have become a mess of components made by different parts makers. In the long term, this clutter could cause problems for the car owners in terms of safety. Now there is a need to clean up this clutter.
“The complexity of engineering ten different systems from ten different suppliers is no longer something an automaker wants to do,” Boyadjis said.
Suppliers are now aiming to make dashboard innards simpler, cheaper and lighter as the industry sees the digital cockpit as a platform that will help usher in the age of the self-driving cars. There is also the fact that the suppliers are all aiming to grab a piece of what is potentially a US$37 billion cockpit electronics market, estimated by research firm IHS Markit, which is estimated to nearly double to US$62 billion by 2022. Accounting firm PwC estimates that electronics could account for up to 20 percent of a car’s value in the next two years, up from 13 percent in 2015.
“You have to be changing and adapting fast. If not, you’re not going to keep up in this market,” said Tim Yerdon, Visteon’s head of global marketing. “It’s about reinventing yourself to stay ahead.”
While it isn’t clear who will prevail, electronics suppliers are seeing their products take on new importance as vehicles become more connected.
Just a few years ago, the car dashboard was “a plastic molded cockpit that we stuffed electronics into,” said Yerdon, Visteon’s marketing chief. “Now it’s more about an electronic architecture that’s experience-driven, and we mold plastic around it.”
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