Flexible plastic displays a wraparound dashboard in your car?

Posted by Muhammed Posted on Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Flexible plastic displays

Let’s face it – most car dashes are pretty ugly. Clunky dials have now been replaced by clunky digital displays. The closest we’re getting to our promised super-slick, space-age technology is the use of Heads Up Displays (HUD) in more expensive models. But as ‘driverless cars’ become a distinct possibility in the near future, how could flexible plastic electronics enhance the driving experience for both passengers and drivers? 

Head’s up… 

Firstly, let’s take a quick look at the actual concept of a head’s up display. Currently, these are still pretty much restricted to high-end models, although they are now starting to filter down into more family-friendly vehicles. Leading the charge is Vauxhall, who’s concept car known as the Monza foregoes the traditional dashboard principle entirely in favour of a modular LED projection display. There’s also rumours that parts of the dashboard will be voice activated, although considering that VA has a long way to go to be truly successful, that could be either a blessing - or a curse.

However, this ties in well with current exploration into the use of flexible plastic electronics in the automotive trade, and particularly to replace the traditional dashboard set-up that we’re familiar with. Projected head’s up displays are already a reality, but what flexible electronics could bring to the party is a completely new and ultra-lightweight dash that is truly a ‘wraparound’ design.

It’s a matter of transposing the technology currently being developed by R&D companies such as Plastic Logic for paper-thin, flexible screens using e-ink, and incorporating them into an automotive design framework. The current flexible screens can be bent, twisted and even folded with no distortion to the image produced by the e-ink, making them perfect for use on curved surfaces such as a dashboard. Combined with the existing head’s up display technology, this would give the driver and the passenger all the information they need in a format that doesn’t distract the driver in particular from concentrating on the road ahead.

For rear seat passengers, flexible plastic display screens could easily replace the existing LCD display screens in the backs of headrests, making them lighter, more robust and, crucially, less likely to cause facial injuries in the event of an impact. Whilst the current framerate of flexible plastic display screens is not yet at a fast enough speed to cope with HD images, advances on both that and the use of colour is moving forward. “Plastic Logic’s development of a colour flexible plastic display is particularly significant, since the same process could enable unbreakable, flexible display solutions with other media such as LCD and OLED," commented Plastic Logic’s CEO Indro Mukerjee recently.

The automotive industry is focusing on efficiency at the moment, due to depleted natural resources. That means cars need to be lighter, and the incorporation of flexible plastic and projected head’s up displays could shave kilos off the final weight of a vehicle, dramatically improving its fuel efficiency.

But that doesn’t have to be at the expense of good design, and again, flexible display screens in particular lend themselves well to blending into futuristic, sleek stylings that will appeal to a demanding public. Expect to see a lot more flexible screen technology within the automotive industry in the coming years. 

Author Bio: - Verena blogs about gadgets and technology, covering everything from the latest mobile advancements to display technology. When she’s not online Verena enjoys swimming, cycling and travelling the world.