Clive Maxfield, EETimes
10/19/2012 12:52 PM EDT
The instrument panel in an automobile provides a critical interface between the driver and the vehicle. The overall design, features, and functionality of the instrument panel can be a major selling factor to a potential customer – or a complete turn off that drives the customer away.
As opposed to traditional panels featuring physical dials and meters, there are many advantages to implementing the panel in the form of an electronic display. This allows the automobile manufacturer to provide unique, reconfigurable instrument panel designs that can provide sophisticated mixtures of digital content with computer-generated representations of classic design elements, such as dials and pointers to display speed and tachometer information.
The end result is that, in today's state-of-the-art automobiles, the instrument panel may quite possibly be the most complicated subsystem in the entire vehicle. It's also important to note that what counts as a top-of-the-line display today will appear in mid-range vehicles in a few years and low-end automobiles shortly thereafter.
Behind the display panel itself will be a specially designed silicon chip called a System-on-Chip (SoC). These instrument panel processing devices, which are incredibly complex, are created by companies with tremendous expertise in this area, such as Freescale (www.freescale.com). Automotive manufacturers subsequently deploy one of these processing devices in their instrument panel, where it is used to generate the high-fidelity graphics that are to be presented to the user.
In addition to the instrument panel, a modern automobile may boast a variety of other sophisticated infotainment and/or safety-related displays, including the central console and heads-up imagery projected onto the windscreen. The following discussions relate to all of these display types, but focus on the main instrument panel for the sake of simplicity.
This article briefly introduces the i.MX6 family of processing devices from Freescale. In particular, we consider the Triple-Play graphics processing units (GPUs) featured in the i.MX6 devices and explains the advantages that result from using three specialized graphics engines. Also introduced are two companies that create human machine interfaces (HMIs) for automobiles using the i.MX6 hardware platform.
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