The Next Big Thing for Displays is Automotive?

After writing for years about the Next Big Thing for the display industry I have to admit that my personal favorite the AR – VR – MR (together XR) or any other reality-based technology is just not ready for prime time.

Other than monthly articles by my colleagues talking about how their favorite flavor of reality technology is ready to take off, I do not see anything that makes me believe that this will change within a year or two. So what what will be the driver for the display industry near term? The alternative is that we all just keep writing about AR, VR, MR headsets and hope that the consumers just wake up and all order one.

Looking around I realized that the technologies that are having a tough time creating the perfect headset for a consumer are ready to create the next generation of automotive displays. For a while, the development from ancient VFDs to high resolution LCD screens in cars seemed to be moving at a very slow pace. We were all content that the automotive industry moves at a different pace with the adoption of new technology. Remember when smartphone connectors were obsolete by the time the various car companies installed them in their cars?

Then Tesla came along and developed electric cars and at the same time changed the adoption cycle for display technology. The latest iteration of the Tesla 3 is proof as they installed a display in the car that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. But isn’t that the definition of progress? Isn’t it the essence of progress to do what everybody says is impossible?

Tesla Model 3 DisplayTesla Model 3 Display, Credit Tesla To be honest I would still be interested to know how they got this kind of design past the US Department of transportation?

The next surprise has come from Audi. After seeing the success of Tesla in the US market, they are ready to play in the same league. Their approach is even more display-centric without changing the automotive display paradigm as much as Tesla is doing. Oh, and, by the way, did I mention the Jaguar electronic SUV concept vehicle I saw over the weekend?

Audi e Tron Interior, Credit Audi

There is not just one major display screen, but multiple screens competing for the driver’s attention. Where the whole thing becomes really advanced is when we take a look at the outside rearview mirrors. As a surprise, the outside mirrors look very small and indeed they should not correctly be called mirrors anymore, they are actually just cameras capturing everything coming from behind. These images are then shown on an OLED display on the door, just below where the mirror would be.

Audi e tron MirrorAudi e tron Mirror, Credit YouTube video from Auditography

The OLED displays you see in the image of the European version of the Audi e-Tron (the US version seems to have standard mirrors) are not only attached on the door but are also shaped to fit the the form of the interior. Not so long ago, this was a concept that almost never made it past the development phase. And did I mention these are touch enabled?

Audi e Tron Mirror Touch ScreenAudi e Tron Mirroe Touch Screen; Credit YouTube video from Auditography

This is awesome. Of course this is a very high end car with a retail price approaching $90k with some options, but still once Audi does it, others will follow. The display impact on the BOM just increased substantially.

While this is already reality (or very close to it) the further outlook for the automotive display market will, of course, include the further development of the head up display. Many companies are working on this and to continue with the VW group, Porsche just announced an investment into WayRay as the developer of an AR windshield display solution that goes beyond what is possible today. They call it the AR windshield. There is a short video available posted by To be complete, Hyundai Motors and JVC Kenwood are also investors in the Swiss WayRay company.

We have reported on WayRay as far back as 2015 and followed them over the the time right into this year.

Porsche AR WindshieldPorsche AR Windshield, Credit

While we have seen similar advertisements before, this shows you how driving on a racetrack is becoming a video game with your competitors. On step further and switching to VR would make it possible to do the exact same thing without buying a race car for a significant amount of money. What will be missing you ask? G-Forces and the smell of course. (NH)