Scalable solutions for hybrid automotive instrument clusters

July 14, 2011 // By Mathias Bräuer, Fujitsu Semiconductor Europe
With increased electronics content, increasingly connected cars and computers taking more and more control in vehicles, it is only logical that instrument clusters massively change their appearance and functions. The article describes how Fujitsu SoCs can be used to support this transition.

Traditional instrument clusters are a key element of cars that undergo significant changes in the near future. The time has arrived for an evolution in traditional main vehicle instrument cluster units. Between the group of mechanical instrument clusters and the growing group of free programmable clusters there is actually the huge area of hybrid dashboards, which combines traditional meters and at least one graphical display for driver information. Fujitsu's FCR4 Cluster family of devices has been especially designed to offer an innovative, scalable solution for these hybrid clusters.

With the increasing number of electronic systems in cars, like e.g. driver assistance systems, the number of information and status signals offered to the driver is increasing in parallel. Undoubtedly pictures and graphics can be grasped more easily and quickly by humans than written or digital information. The consequence is a strong trend towards displays within easy view of the driver, mostly as part of a hybrid cluster, but also - as a logical step – implemented as head-up displays (HUD). For the automotive industry the design of the driver's environment is a major differentiator from would-be competitors, especially considering the difficult conditions for implementing advanced electronic systems in the car. Quality, robustness, functional safety, data security, low power consumption, etc., are the main criteria. From the cost perspective this means that display and semiconductor technologies have to be available at reasonable prices and have to offer the right amount of scalability in several key areas, such as LCD and TFT, graphics processors and controller units, sensors and LED modules.

New features and applications, with obvious possibilities for integration into instrument clusters, are being introduced into cars via entertainment, navigation, advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) and diagnostic systems. Although multi-purpose head units will still have the main display capability, clusters will be able to offer an auxiliary screen to the driver - especially for multimedia content, even if it were only to

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