The Art of Interface
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Firmware for automotive digital instrument clusters

1. Introduction

The spirit of the digital instrument cluster is firmware, or managing code that renders graphics and keeps the logic of things. The most important parts of the firmware are:

  • 2D and 3D graphic engines
  • user interface logic
  • peripheral drivers
  • communication engines and protocols
  • real-time operation system (RTOS)

2D graphical engine is responsible for picture we see in the dashboard. Final image consists of 2D pixels in the LCD, so, 2D graphical engine works on the level of elementary units of the LCD — pixels. 3D graphical engine is responsible for rendering 3D objects. Objects consist of triangles, and 3D graphical engine projects those triangles on 2D plane to get pixel image.

Automotive digital instrument cluster graphical design - the picture to be rendered real-time. Fig. 1. Automotive digital instrument cluster graphical design — the picture to be rendered real-time.

User interface includes dialogs, controls and their logic.

Peripheral drivers are invisible forces responsible for communication between electronic components. That is how, for instance, touches are read from touch-screen: touch-screen driver reads signals from the touch-screen and converts them into events and coordinates.

Communication engines are responsible for interaction with other on-board systems of the vehicle. Important part of the communication engine is communication protocol.

Sometimes operation system (OS) is used — because the automotive dashboard is real-time device, the real-time kind of the OS to be used — so called RTOS.

2. Firmware development

Firmware development consists of three major areas:

  • 2D-3D graphic engine
  • graphical user interface (GUI)
  • peripheral drivers
  • communication protocols

Graphical engine makes the digital dashboard live — it renders the final picture real-time.

Video 1. Automotive digital instrument cluster prototype programmed to render the above design.

User interface is necessary if the vrutal instrument cluster is interactive one — if user can reset trip counter and set clocks, for instance, touching virtual controls in the display.

Peripheral drivers development is of must for any digital dashboard — they manage the hearth of the cluster, SoC.

As well the communication engine is the necessary part of the instrument panel firmware — any panel intakes parameters to be displayed.

Because of reliability requirements the embedded programming is done according to strict standards for embedded code like MISRA C.

3. Our offer

Firmware for automotive digital instrument clusters

Full cycle of automotive digital instrument cluster firmware development, programming of:

  • 2D and 3D graphics
  • GUI
  • peripheral drivers
  • communication protocols
  • RTOS

Firmware is derivative from graphical design and hardware specification, so, no customer input is required.