Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Virtual instrument cluster

Fujitsu Microelectronics Europe (FME) has announced a new application concept showing the possibilities for virtual instrumentation in future passenger and commercial vehicles. The intention of developing the virtual cluster application was to provide a ‘right-sized’ complete system solution including hardware and software components, a demo application, as well as tool support to enable a quick start to development.

The application uses Fujitsu’s MB86298 ‘Ruby’ graphic processing unit, a dedicated GPU for embedded applications. The graphics core technology forms the basis for next-generation System-on-Chips, combines visual computing with automotive-specific features and introduces impressive vehicle application opportunities. In addition to four integrated video capture units and two integrated display controllers, the GPU's unified shader architecture is fully compliant to Kronos OpenGL ES 2.0.

CGI Studio, the new independent software development platform from Fujitsu Microelectronics Embedded Solution Austria GmbH (FEAT), is also employed in this application. The software has been specifically designed for the development of automotive 3D instrument cluster and infotainment system graphical human machine interfaces (HMI/GUI). In addition to the 3D software engine ‘Candera’, CGI Studio provides a continuous authoring tool-chain based on ‘Scene Composer’ as well as the necessary software development process.

The demo application was created in close co-operation with icon incar, a professional automotive design studio located in Germany. Impressive and realistic 3D capabilities (using OpenGL ES 2.0) are shown, displaying different instrument cluster content in high resolution, which is related to various live situations.

‘Basic’ mode is focussed on ease-of-use with a menu application that minimises the information level to allow the driver to concentrate on the essentials using harmonised design elements. This mode is the standard interface and provides the driver with all the information that is required and relevant to the current driving situation. The 'Ice' colour scheme mixes temperate colouring with clearly structured elements. The whole scene is modelled like a tunnel and gives the impression of an infinite space. A pointer moves on a defined axis into the background. This background area enables the display of moving elements that are smaller or bigger, depending on the distance of the objects or their importance. The user can choose between ‘navigation’, ‘media’, ‘phone’ and ‘assistance’ view.

‘Sports’ mode is designed to impress the viewer with ‘Fire’ colour scheme - a red background showing traditional needle instruments. In this mode, the cluster provides minimal information only - keeping the driver’s attention focused. Important information such as the rotational-speed sensor is displayed in the centre. Additional colouring features will be used if the speed needle moves into the red area. Speed information is displayed on the right-hand side, while the left-hand side provides information in the form of a stop watch.

Minimal vehicle system and economy information is displayed during ‘Stop’ mode, which switches to use the complete display area. This mode provides the highest level of screen flexibility and is used when traffic information that is normally displayed does not need to be shown - e.g. at a red traffic light when the car is stationary, or when the engine stops. In these situations, information about speed and other standard items is not required. The driver can call up information regarding the vehicle, the route or the traffic situation – it would even be possible to transfer traffic light information, e.g. the red phase duration, into the scene.

Step-by-step, fully digital visualisations are replacing traditional in-car electromechanical instrument panels, reducing the complexity of systems and the need for numerous production variants. With a high degree of flexibility, and showing only content that is relevant to different specific driver situations, these new instrument displays help to increase safety in the vehicle.

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