Flexible displays for automotive
Flexible displays bring outstanding opportunities for automotive interior design.
The trend towards greater connectivity and automation in the vehicle is placing increasing focus and value on the HMI. Up to now, vehicle HMIs have been extremely focused on the driver with almost no control available to the passengers. In the future, a much greater proportion of the car’s interior surfaces will become interactive and the surface area devoted to displays in vehicle interiors is already growing rapidly. IHS Markit forecasts automotive display system markets will grow to a total of nearly $21 billion in 2022.
Demand for flexible displays
In order to respond to the HMI evolution, displays will play an ever more important role for creating a customisable, personalisable and safer car interior. However, they need to become much better integrated into the curved and shaped surfaces of the vehicle interior, while also meeting automotive brightness and reliability requirements, and all that at an affordable cost.
Some of the applications which these flexible displays need to address include:
Displays for increased safety
These displays will typically need to conform naturally to the curved surfaces of the car and be unobtrusive when not displaying information. Often they will need to be non-rectangular as well as non-flat. For example, a curved display on the A-pillar of the car can show the driver what is behind the pillar.
Curved displays can also be used as 'digital' side-view mirrors (in combination with cameras) - they can increase safety by widening the field of view as well as contributing to fuel efficiency in comparison with the external side-view mirrors. Novares showed an example of a 'diigital' side-mirror in Nova Car 2 using a curved display by FlexEnable - the display is integrated into the corner between the A-pillar, the instrument panel and the door panel.
'Invisible' A-pillar concept. Image source: FlexEnable
A side-mirror replacement using curved OLCD. Source: Novares
Displays for infotainment
Most cars built in the last decade feature a flat, rectangular satnav or infotainment screen dominating the centre console. These screens are almost ubiquitous in the latest generation of cars and are getting bigger and bigger.
The dominant active-matrix display technology in vehicles is LCD made on glass. These glass LCDs are often the only flat surfaces left in the vehicle, disrupting the form and flow of the interior space and limiting ergonomic options for designers. Replacing these flat panel displays with screens that can conform to the vehicle interior shape and curves will allow for their seamless integration and improved aesthetics of the car interior.
Shaped infotainment display concept. Image source: FlexEnable
An S-shaped centre unit consisting of twin 12.1” OLCDs. Source: Novares
Conformable and shapeable OLCDs for automotive applications
FlexEnable has developed a flexible display technology known as organic LCD (OLCD). OLCD is the only flexible display technology that can meet the automotive requirements because:
- It enables ultra-bright displays without reducing display lifetime (unlike flexible OLED)
- It can be made into large sizes (unlike flexible OLED)
- Its manufacturing costs are the lowest of any flexible displays technology
- OLCD can be conformed and cut into different shapes and sizes (holes in the display are also possible)
- It uses a frontplane technology already used in cars (LCD) and the OTFT backplane is higher performance than the amorphous silicon transistors it replaces
- OLCD is thin, light and shatterproof meaning it reduces weight and improves safety
- FlexEnable’s process is the only industrially proven approach to producing active-matrix backplanes at low temperature which provides many production yield and cost benefits
- OLCD is compatible with existing LCD manufacturing lines and utilises an already established supply chain
- OLCD has already been successfully integrated into demo cars by automotive partners including Novares
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