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Overcoming the challenges of TFT graphical automotive cockpit displays

Car manufacturers are increasingly replacing or augmenting traditional dashboard instruments with virtual instrumentation rendered on a TFT-LCD panel.

The result is not only a novel selling point, it also gives owners the ability to customise their user experience similar to “re-skinning” a smartphone. This approach is also effective in helping to more effectively manage the increasing quantities of information available to the driver.

Overcoming the challenges of TFT graphical automotive cockpit displays

In an increasing number of today’s models, at market levels from prestige to lower mid-ranges, part or all of the instrumentation is now presented via a TFT-LCD colour display panel. Typical display sizes can range from 3-inch up to 12-inch, and may be used in a variety of ways ranging from a small auxiliary display sitting alongside conventional main dials up to a fully graphical unit with virtual dials featuring rotating pointers.

Desire for larger display sizes capable of presenting more information in a user-friendly layout, and of giving stylists greater creative freedom, place increased demands on the graphics chips at the heart of the system.

Graphically rendering the rotating pointer of a virtual dial is a complex undertaking, since the end result must be lifelike and visually pleasing to the driver. Care must be taken, to avoid unwanted stroboscopic effects that will attract unfavourable comparisons with conventional dials.

Toshiba has overcome this challenge with the patented stroboscopic compensation feature in its Capricorn-Bt0/1 all-in-one microcontrollers, which are designed specifically for advanced automotive instrumentation applications. The stroboscopic compensation is based on a hardware bitmap rotation block, which handles overlaying of the rotated pointer onto a graphical background with angular resolution as fine as 0.1°. A filtering algorithm is implemented to optimise the appearance of the pointer.

The Capricorn microcontrollers also integrate stepper-motor control interfaces, to provide the flexibility to support projects combining advanced graphical effects with conventional physical dials.

Learn more about implementing TFT graphical displays in cars

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