The role of curved screens in tomorrow’s connected car
July 14, 2020
The global automotive displays market is forecast to double between 2018 and 2025, reaching $30Bn by 2025 according to Global Market Insights. Although research suggests that car sales are only expected to increase by 25% over the same period, the increase in displays sales is driven by the incorporation of larger and more displays in the car interior.
Most cars today feature glass displays and they are often the only flat surface in the entire vehicle – every other surface is curved, shaped and flowing making it challenging to seamlessly integrate the larger and multiple displays needed for tomorrow’s connected cockpit. The drive toward larger and more displays in vehicles therefore creates a need for displays which conform to the contours of the automotive interior.
These curved displays will have a function that is more important than just bringing design aesthetic. They will play an important role in improving the user safety and experience too.
In-vehicle displays are increasingly being used to enhance car safety features. These displays work in combination with multiple sensors and cameras around the car that can warn of hazards on the road. In tomorrow’s connected cars these displays will ideally need to conform naturally to the curved surfaces of the car and be unobtrusive when not displaying information. For example a curved display on the A-pillar of the car can show the driver what is behind the pillar when combined with external cameras and sensors. Curved displays can also be used as 'digital' side-view mirrors to increase safety by widening the field of view to eliminate blind spots as well as contributing to fuel efficiency in comparison with the external side-view mirrors.
There is a continued convergence of consumer electronics and automotive industries, and the proliferation of displays in cars is a key part of that. The HMI has always been driver-centric and to some extent today, part of the car’s interior must be designed around the flat glass display, rather than the other way round.
As we gradually transition to more and more vehicle autonomy we are likely to see the HMI spread out and be less driver centric – a more democratised control of the vehicle across multiple occupants. This spreading out will happen not only in a physical way in terms of multiple HMI locations, but also in a functional way – where occupants work or entertain themselves in new ways.
Curved and shaped displays are needed to create these “smart surfaces” around each occupant. The screen area can be ‘hidden until lit’ at times and can be used to create a welcoming and reassuring ambience at other times.
Personalisable and customisable car interiors
The ways we will be spending time in tomorrow’s connected cars will be different. This creates an opportunity to provide customisable and downloadable elements of HMI. In the future, shared mobility vehicles can be configured and personalised - each passenger will be able to feel like they are using their own vehicle, in the same way people can select their mobile device screen background.
Flexible display technologies will allow car designers to design the cockpit of the car without constraints and deliver automotive HMIs of the future. Non-flat and non-rectangular displays present both new system design challenges and opportunities. Automotive flexible displays will typically require lamination and assembly into a shaped cover lens or “window” which is likely to be specific to the vehicle interior design. In many cases, the HMI features enabled by the conformed display will also require the development of additional systems and software. From a supply chain perspective a more holistic design is needed for both the active and passive surfaces flowing seamlessly together. Designing displays around the car and not the other way round will likely bring those in the supply chain (display makers, Tier 1s and OEMs) to work in a more collaborative way.
Finally, curved surface-integrated displays must meet strict automotive requirements and last for the life of the vehicle. That is one reason why LCD is the dominant display technology in cars today, while flexible OLED has not been widely used in vehicles. FlexEnable’s OLCD technology addresses the need for conformed and shaped displays, while also meeting the automotive requirements. This is achieved by using many of the existing materials, processes and supply chain for automotive qualified LCD displays.
Working closely with automotive partners, FlexEnable is already developing display prototypes for cars. For more information on OLCD, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.