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The future of driver information

LARGER AND HIGHER QUALITY DISPLAY SURFACES will support the driver in future vehicle generations. They help the driver to exploit the possibilities of their vehicle: "Modern cars offer drivers more and more support," said 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."

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 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.

The 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." Continental, for example, is currently examining how autostereoscopic 3D displays in the instrument cluster can assist the driver in a useful way. 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 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.

The evolution of the head-up display (HUD)

The HUD is another one of the elements of the HMI that is increasingly important because of the ever-rising amount of information in the car. This is why Ethernet-based networks increasingly transmit data. Nevertheless, CAN-based in-vehicle networks transport most of the shorter information. CAN FD will help to close the bandwidth gap between CAN and Ethernet.

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Today’s head-up displays reach a virtual display size above the car hood of 6 degrees (wide) by 2 degrees (high). 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, Continental’s product manager for HUD. 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.

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