Touch panels conquer automotive cockpits

April 21, 2016 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Smartphone and tablet users increasingly expect to find the ingredients of their digital lifestyle in the car as well as in their living rooms. Car manufacturers accommodate this demand. The consequence: The market for automotive touch panels will increase steeply. A study from market research company IHS provides exact figures.

In the timespan between 2013 and 2021, the market for automotive touch panels is expected to expand from 28 million units shipped to 86 million units. According to IHS senior display analyst Shoko Oi, touch panels are becoming a standard feature in new vehicles – despite concerns that this technology could affect while driving. According to ergonomics experts, these concerns however find their justification in the nested menus that frequently are part of human-machine interfaces that also contain touch panels.

The content shown on automotive displays typically comes from a variety of sources, both inside and outside the car. Examples are head unit apps reflecting the user interface of smartphones, navigation systems, or vehicle status information such as rpm, speed, fuel, temperature and more. To a large part, such content is part of a graphical user interface, enabling users to set vehicle controls like air conditioning parameters or to select entertainment programs. Thus, the role of the panels shifts from simply visualize information to becoming an actual human-machine interface. At the same time, the amount of date to be displayed via an screen is increasing, leading to larger panels. Safety and comfort considerations increase the demand for high display quality as well as for curved shapes. Ease of use and a user experience similar to tablet computers cause demand shifting from resistive-touch to capacitive-touch technology, despite higher prices for the latter. While historically resistive-technology screens dominated the automotive markets, by 2017 it is expected that capacitive screens will exceed the resistive ones.

More information: Automotive Touch Panel Market Report

Modern Automotive Display Touch-Lens Interface

This is how the cockpit of the future might look like