Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting




It Took More Than 30 Years…

It was just about 30 years ago that I was Program Chair and then General Chair of the Society for Information Display Annual Symposium. This is the technical meeting where display experts from around the world gather each year to present and listen to the latest developments in display technology.

One of the new and important display technology areas that had great interest at that conference 30 years ago was displays for automotive applications and in particular an all-electronic dashboard.

There were presentations from key technologists representing the major car companies and in the exhibit area there was even a concept car with an all-electronic dashboard. The expectation was that we would soon see a major change from mechanical gauges to all-electronic displays. The decade ahead looked full of promise. After all, military aircraft were already using heads-up displays and even commercial airplanes were beginning to contemplate the introduction of display technologies into cockpits of new airplanes under development.

And then ten years went by. I was at another annual SID Symposium but this time in the audience. One of the opening keynote speakers was from a major automotive company and he was explaining how electronic displays were about to become important in how information is presented to the driver. I turned to a friend and colleague sitting next to me and said, “Andy didn’t we hear this same talk 10 years ago?” And indeed we had. Basically, nothing had changed. The promise was still there but nothing had been implemented. As it turned out, a key obstacle was that an electronic dashboard does not show much of anything when the car is in the showroom. And apparently when people are car shopping they want to see lots of beautiful precision-looking gauges on the dashboard. The buyers were simply not ready to accept what technology could offer.

Then another 10 years went by -- and still nothing. Another talk from another industry leader about how electronics would soon take over the dashboard.

Nevertheless, this time something new was beginning to happen. It was now common for a car to have a built in GPS system and some of them were being integrated with displays that also functioned for entertainment features such as radios and CD players. Electronics was intruding into the passenger compartment but in the entertainment and communications cluster instead of the dashboard. The tipping point was about to happen but in a way that few had anticipated. As consumers became accustomed to having an electronic display in the center console -- with all kinds of interesting features -- the path to an all-electronic dashboard was finally opening.

And to add to the impetus, during the 30-year span as automotive display applications languished, display technologies made major advances. The proposed automotive dashboards of 30 years ago were based on inorganic EL and CRT displays. Colors and information content were limited – although quite functional. The current displays based on LC, and LED technologies are bright, high resolution, and full color -- and can display information in a variety of formats. So the time has finally come. The electronic dashboard is about to become ubiquitous. Car buyers are no longer resistant to electronic displays – even if they don’t light up in the showroom.

It took 30 years and a circuitous path through GPS and entertainment displays for it to finally happen. Display technology couldn’t do it alone. It needed a push from an unexpected source.

Are you ready to purchase your next car with an all-electronic dashboard? Or have you already done that? Let me know your thoughts on this topic or others. You may reach me directly from this site, or by telephone at 425-898-9117.


19916 NE 30th Ct. Sammamish, WA 98074 Call 425.898.9117

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