The Art of Interface
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Hardware for automotive digital instrument clusters

1. Introduction

The body of digital instrument cluster is electronics, or hardware. The most important parts are:

  • SoC — system on chip, hybrid processing unit
  • LCD — liquid crystal display, usually of TFT (thin film transistor) type
  • dynamic memory
  • flash memory
  • power supply unit (PSU)
Automotive virtual instrument cluster hardware. Fig. 1. Automotive virtual instrument cluster hardware.

SoC is hybrid processing unit, which contains both central processing unit (CPU) and graphical processing unit (GPU). CPU responsible for general-purpose calculations and GPU renders 2D and 3D graphics. The SoC is electronic heart of the digital dashboard.

LCD displays the graphics, sometimes the dashboard has more than one LCD — two or three ones.

Dynamic memory is the place where all graphical computations are done and flash memory is the place where the rendering program is residing when the board is not powered.

Automotive digital instrument cluster prototype based on Fujitsu SoC. Fig. 2. Automotive digital instrument cluster prototype based on Fujitsu SoC.

2. Hardware development

Hardware development consists of three major stages:

  • schematics
  • component selection
  • printed circuit board (PCB) development

Schematics reflects the logic of electronic components interconnection — this is the primary chart of the dashboard hardware.

Digital instrument cluster printed circuit board - PCB. Fig. 3. Digital instrument cluster printed circuit board — PCB.

Component selection is done according to expected functionality of the virtual instrument cluster. Not all SoC are equal, some of them can get the output of GPS system, some can render 360° view, some can drive a couple of displays. Depending on tasks to be performed different amount of dynamic memory is required, and depending on processing complexity and graphical design weight different amount of flash memory should be used. And of course, all components should be of automotive grade.

We work with most up-to-date automotive components from Freescale, Fujitsu and Texas Instruments.

3. Our offer

Hardware for automotive digital instrument clusters

Full cycle of automotive digital instrument cluster hardware development:

  • schematics and component selection
  • PCB design and production
  • integration of the instrument cluster with existing on-board systems
  • housing manufacturing
  • service and support of the produced instrument clusters

From you we expect specification on virtual instrument cluster integration with existing on-board systems and power circuit.