OLEDs in Automotive – Or…..?

Another week and another trade show. This week, I had (in every sense of the word) a flying visit to the Passenger Terminal Expo show in Stockholm. I was undecided whether to go, as one company that had decided not to attend had said that they feared that the show would not be busy, because of the location. As it turned out, it was quite lively with plenty of visitors. In any case, for us a lack of visitors may even be an advantage! We’ll have the report on that show on the website in the next day or so. Meanwhile, we have published our report from the Leyard showroom opening in LDM and a report from the Wearables Show in London in MDM.

We still have plenty of shows before we get a break in June after Infocomm (well, after CineEurope which is the week after). Then it’s back with IBC and IFA.

One of our Front Page stories this week is about the investment in JOLED by Denso. That’s really interesting as it suggests that Denso, which is a Tier One supplier to the automotive industry, has confidence in the use of OLED in that application. The form factor and visual quality of OLED has always been appealing to the automotive market, but the issues of lifetime and qualification have been a barrier. OLEDs in automotive are not a new idea. I bought a new Toyota in 2000 that had a passive monochrome OLED in the fuel gauge, if I remember correctly. I also put in a Pioneer radio that had a colour passive OLED. Now, I don’t do much driving – mostly to airports when I’m expecting a late flight back and can’t rely on the train, so I kept the car for a long time (and my son-in-law still has it!).

However, I did notice that the displays got distinctly dimmer over the lifetime. One of the intriguing points about the automotive business is the relatively short life time of cars which are designed for around 5,000 hours of operation (with up to 10 service operations in that time). In electronics, lifetimes are always expected to be in the 10s of thousands, it seems (although smartphones are an exception). In this issue of LDM, we report on a lifetime of 130,000 hours for Mitsubishi LED cubes – which means 15 years 24/7 operation – or the lifetime of 26 cars!

With the move to autonomous cars, some believe that the use of cars will mean less personal ownership as cars are only used for 5% of the time (and mine is probably just 1% or 2%). If the transport business moves from an ownership model to a usage model, cars will have to be used for a lot more hours. On current design rules a car used 20 hours per day might not last for a year and need servicing once per month. A move from internal combustion engines to electric cars is bound to help, but the displays in these cars are going to have to be much more robust. That might be a real challenge for OLEDs.

Although smartwatches, smartphones and TVs have been talked about as potential markets for microLEDs, it seems to me that this kind of intense and very long life application, combined with the potential flexibility, could be a natural fit for automotive applications.

Clearly, Denso is not concerned about this – at least not concerned enough to resist its investment.


Step 1 of 4