Fujitsu shapes the virtual dashboard

March 07, 2011 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
In next-generation vehicles, the instrument cluster will be replaced by a graphical display, enabling car designers to provide situation-sensitive information to the drivers. At Embedded World in Nuremberg, Fujitsu showed a number of integrated circuits which could provide the base for the design of these virtual dashboards.

The flexibility of electronic dashboards can be increased if it is implemented completely virtual and the Central Information Display, today mainly used for navigation and multimedia functions is fully merged with the dashboard, explained Mark Ellins, Director Common Technologies and Functions at Fujitsu Semiconductor Europe. In the scope of such concepts, the virtual display will be the primary interface with the driver, replacing most traditional control elements such as pointer instruments, knobs and buttons. From the systems perspective, it is desirable that the same device can serve multiple purposes, calling for a high degree of intelligence and software in these application fields.

The centerpiece of Fujitsu's dashboard devices is the Emerald P. As a world's first, the device supports the APIX2 interface for high-bandwidth display connections, developed by Inova Semiconductors. The Emerald P combines an ARM Cortex-A9 processor core and a programmable shader Graphics Processor Unit (GPU). The device offers four video inputs that can run in parallel and support various camera-based automotive applications including “bird's view” representations of the vehicle's ambient.

The Emerald P contains three independent display controllers, enabling designers to implement a 'virtual dashboard’ display, a center display and a head-up display, all driven by one single chip. The device also generates images in up to eight graphical layers, allowing flexible and prioritized graphic rendering of the data presented to the user when changing from one operational scene to another. On top of that, the Emerald P embraces a number of automotive standard resources and communication protocols such as CAN interface, Media Local Bus and Ethernet, all implemented in hardware.

Also designed to support automotive dashboard solutions but aiming to more conventional designs is Fujitus’s Indigo L, a sprite-based graphics controller optimized to support a Central Information Displays (CID) and an additional Head-up display (HUD. The device connects to display panels by means of the APIX technology.

Besides purely graphics functions, the Indigo L also incorporates additional