Basic computer systems have been used in cars for several years. Most recently, they have been used to offer more advanced on-board information systems. Central processors have for some time been used to control engine management – ensuring smooth running, good fuel efficiency and performance. They have, however, performed relatively simple tasks and are not safety critical.
More advanced use of information technology in cars will lead to an increase in user-orientated systems. Systems will continue to be developed to control and manage the mechanical elements of a vehicle – such as engine, suspension and braking – but the most noticeable changes will take place inside.
Displays & Interfaces
One area of vehicle intelligence that has already raised its head above the parapet is that of user interfaces. It is now possible to display all the information a driver or occupant may want without the use of three-dimensional analogue displays. Above and beyond that, it is now possible to cater the information that is displayed to the particular preferences of a user and to further vary that according to changing conditions – such as traffic, weather, time of day etc. It is envisaged that information relating to specific traffic conditions could be relayed to a driver in motion. Such systems would not only indicate congestion problems but perhaps warn of large numbers of pedestrians, accident black spots, approaching emergency vehicles – even opportunities for refuelling should the tank be empty.
Importantly for designers, the manipulation of displays and interfaces will allow the use of new aesthetic concepts, the simplification of dashboard forms and the ability to incorporate a large number of controls into small areas.
- Controls can take the form of touch sensitive displays, allowing greater use of smooth surfaces.
- Using multi-mode and menu systems, digital displays can eliminate the need for dashboard space for every control.
- Using technologies such as E-Ink, it will be possible to place displays and controls over entire surfaces; this offers opportunities for 2D graphic aesthetics (like computer screensavers) to be developed as well as the creation of large interactive work surfaces.
Many location based information systems are already available and use satellite positioning coupled with pre-stored data about certain locations as well as live traffic information. With the increase of wireless technology, and ultimately its ubiquitous presence, it will be possible for a vehicle to simply collect (and pass on) information as it moves through different areas.