Continental is developing its innovative 3D instrument display cluster with the aim of bringing it to production within the next 24-36 months. The display, previewed by Automotive Engineering at a recent technology meeting, features a high-definition (1920 x 720 pixel) 12.3- in screen but is suitable for displays measuring 15 in.
“The proliferation of displays in the interior of the cabin allows for more individuality, variety of shapes and appearances” a Continental engineer explained, adding, “Instead of relying on flat, one-dimensional surfaces, we are offering a solution that allows designers to play with the interior in a creative and cost-efficient way.”
The 3D display's surface features optically-bonded, topographical elements that restore a sense of quality and design individuality to the classic display. The usual air gap between the display surface and front is eliminated, allowing for better colors and visualization and creating the optical illusion which makes the viewer believe they are seeing a 3D shaped display.
To help contain costs, Continental engineers employed exactly the same controllers that are used for its regular flat 2D displays. Company executives claim this approach enables them to offer “highly competitive" prices when compared to conventional instrumentation packs or HUDs.
The unit on display featured a 3D beveled edge with high-level information such as vehicle speed displayed in both digital and graph formats. Warnings such as "Pedestrian Crossing" and "Slow Down" are augmented by an animation that morphs into a road map, along with simple digital speed read-outs accompanied by weather conditions if automated driving mode is activated.
With in-vehicle data almost certain to grow as autonomy develops in parallel with an increase in V2V and V2I (vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure) information, as well as on-board communications, infotainment and navigation systems, Continental sees 3D instrumentation as a means of clarifying and segmenting all this data to prevent driver-information overload.
Engineers explained that such visualization makes it easier to process information given on the screen. The variety of visual levels enables information to be clustered, for better reception and interpretation by the driver. The new 3D display has nothing in common with head-up displays (HUD). One is virtual, the other analog, and their distribution of content is also vastly different; for example the HUD has a much more limited specification of information allowed to be shown in order to minimize driver distraction.
While it might all seem a bit “Star Trek-y” right now, aimed at a future when semi- or fully-autonomous vehicles rule the roads Continental, by predicting that it could be seen around the 2020-21 timeframe, maintains that it is oriented towards customers who want a more “visually advanced display” and represents a “progressive” design evolution.