VE­HI­CLE SCREENS GO SU­PER-SIZED AT CES AS TECH­NOL­OGY CATCHES UP

The Gulf Today - Business - - TECHNOLOGY -

Take a glance at the ve­hi­cle dis­plays shown at Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show (CES) and you could be for­given for think­ing you are at the movies. This year’s Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show held in Las Ve­gas, Ne­vada, US, from Jan.8-11.

“This is not sci­ence fic­tion!” an­nounced the head of By­ton, an elec­tric ve­hi­cle startup, on­stage ear­lier this week at the global tech­nol­ogy con­fer­ence in Las Ve­gas. CEO and Chair­man Carsten Bre­it­feld was re­fer­ring to the jaw-drop­ping, 48-inch (1.22 m) screen in­side the Chi­ne­se­funded com­pany’s M-byte car.

By­ton’s ve­hi­cle will not be built un­til later this year. But its su­per-sized dis­play - sup­plied by China’s BOE Tech­nol­ogy Group is prov­ing an un­de­ni­able trend in the au­to­mo­tive world, fu­eled by the rise of more con­nected cars.

“The screens are the win­dow to the dig­i­tal world,” said Gor­den Wa­gener, chief de­sign of­fi­cer for Daim­ler, Mercedesbenz’s par­ent. “Screens are the new horse­power.”

The 2019 Mercedes EQC cross­over fea­tures two 10.25-inch dis­plays be­hind a glass sur­face form­ing a free-stand­ing screen.

It is not just fu­tur­is­tic elec­tric and lux­ury ve­hi­cles that are up­ping the size ante. Fiat Chrysler’s 2019 RAM 1500 truck boasts a 12-inch ver­ti­cal dis­play in its dash­board.

Be­sides the cen­ter con­sole, in­stru­ment clus­ters, which house driv­ing con­trols, and rear-seat en­ter­tain­ment dis­plays are both grow­ing in size. Au­tomak­ers like Audi that com­bine the cen­ter con­sole and in­stru­ment clus­ter of­ten re­fer to a “cock­pit,” ne­ces­si­tat­ing a wide, sweep­ing screen, like By­ton’s, and more con­sol­i­dated com­put­ing power.

Car­mak­ers are adding a rear view mir­ror dis­play to project im­ages from a rear-fac­ing cam­era, while “heads-up dis­plays” where pro­jected im­ages float on the wind­shield to im­part valu­able in­for­ma­tion to the driver - are an ex­plod­ing mar­ket.

“We’re liv­ing in a dis­play-cen­tered world,” said Brian Rhodes, Con­nected Car Re­search Lead at IHS Markit. “I don’t think it’s co­in­ci­den­tal we have a lot of screens in ve­hi­cles that look just like tablets. That’s clearly the trend.”

The av­er­age size glob­ally of a ve­hi­cle’s cen­ter dis­play in 2018 was 7.7 inches, ac­cord­ing to IHS Markit, and it is pro­jected to grow to 8.4 inches by 2024.

Heads-up dis­plays are the fastest-grow­ing dis­play seg­ment, Rhodes said. There are cur­rently about 6.3 mil­lion cars in the world that have these dis­plays, but that fig­ure is ex­pected to bal­loon to 14.1 mil­lion by 2024, he said.

USER EX­PE­RI­ENCE

Tesla was the first to wow driv­ers and send ri­val au­tomak­ers scram­bling when it came out in 2012 with a 17-inch LCD dis­play for the Model S. Ap­ple and Al­pha­bet’s Google sub­se­quently in­tro­duced Carplay and An­droid Auto, which al­low stream­ing mu­sic, maps and other apps to be ac­cessed through the car’s cen­ter dis­play.

That, more than Tesla’s in­flu­ence, is the pri­mary rea­son au­tomak­ers have em­braced larger screens, Rhodes said. But Ap­ple and Google’s de­but in­side the car’s main dis­play ush­ered in fraught soul-search­ing by au­tomak­ers, who have been loath to cede such valu­able real es­tate to tech ri­vals, yet anx­ious to give con­sumers the iphone ex­pe­ri­ence they crave.

That ten­sion is still play­ing out in­side the car, where some au­tomak­ers have been “pas­siveag­gres­sive” about fully in­te­grat­ing Ap­ple or Google for an op­ti­mal ex­pe­ri­ence, said au­to­mo­tive re­search di­rec­tor at Gart­ner, Mike Ram­sey. The re­sult is an of­ten clunky user ex­pe­ri­ence.

In some cases, Ram­sey said, “They’re su­per­siz­ing the screen with­out any ac­tual ben­e­fit.”

In Oc­to­ber, in­flu­en­tial US mag­a­zine Con­sumer Re­ports yanked the rec­om­men­da­tions of four ve­hi­cle mod­els from Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­biles NV , Ford Mo­tor Co and Honda Mo­tor Co Ltd due to con­sumer feed­back about freez­ing or blank screens.

Al­though such prob­lems orig­i­nate from the back-end tech that drives the con­tent and not the screens them­selves, “from the con­sumer’s view it’s one and the same,” Rhodes said.

Short of invit­ing the tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies fur­ther into the car to con­trol the user ex­pe­ri­ence - as Volvo an­nounced in Novem­ber it would do with an An­droid-based in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem - au­tomak­ers are faced with the task of de­sign­ing an in­ter­face that con­sumers ac­tu­ally want to use.

“If it’s be­ing led by the au­tomaker to de­sign the user in­ter­face it can be a big ask,” said Rhodes. Un­til re­cently, he said, it “wasn’t their core com­pe­tency.” Mercedes’ MBUX user in­ter­face re­leased last year at CES is seen within the in­dus­try as the one to beat.

DIG­I­TAL SOUL

“Of course we want to own the real es­tate in our own car,” newly ap­pointed Daim­ler AG CEO Ola Kael­le­nius told a small group of jour­nal­ists on Tues­day. “You need to own your own dig­i­tal soul of your car.”

Key to that, how­ever, was hav­ing an “open source mind­set” so that Mercedes’ ecosys­tem could in­te­grate with oth­ers, he said, such as Google and Ap­ple’s.

Au­tomak­ers say that if done prop­erly, a big­ger screen can en­hance safety by pro­vid­ing more use­ful in­for­ma­tion, such as lights about to turn red, ac­ci­dent alerts or road con­di­tions ahead.

Driver dis­trac­tion would de­cline, not rise, with a larger screen, they say, as driv­ers would no longer need to strug­gle through a myr­iad of op­tions clut­tered on a small screen.

“You need a place to vis­ually dis­play that in­for­ma­tion to the driver in a way that is ef­fec­tive and not dis­tract­ing. So you need real es­tate,” said Abe Chen, vice pres­i­dent of Dig­i­tal Tech­nol­ogy at By­ton.

The op­tional 10-inch dis­play on the 2020 Ford Ex­plorer sport util­ity ve­hi­cle — and the stan­dard 8-inch dis­play - were de­signed to dis­cour­age driv­ers from get­ting im­mersed in too much data by stack­ing in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing Carplay and An­droid Auto, Ruth Vann, Ford’s user ex­pe­ri­ence su­per­vi­sor, told Reuters this month.

“There are things we will lock out while driv­ing,” she said, adding that cus­tomers will be en­cour­aged to use voice com­mands.

Mean­while, Ad­vanced Mi­cro De­vices un­veiled its next gen­er­a­tion smaller and power-ef­fi­cient com­puter chip and a graph­ics pro­ces­sor, aim­ing at big­ger ri­vals In­tel Corp and Nvidia Corp.

Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Lisa Su, dur­ing a key­note ad­dress at the on­go­ing Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show, gave a pre­view of AMD’S third-gen­er­a­tion Ryzen CPU chips for desk­top users.

The Ryzen CPU chips will be launched in the mid­dle of this year and will com­pete with In­tel’s PC pro­ces­sors.

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