Digital Cockpit

What Is a Digital Cockpit?

A digital cockpit is a vehicle’s array of display technologies that work together to deliver information to the driver. A digital cockpit could include the infotainment screen, the instrument binnacle usually placed behind the steering wheel, a head-up display (HUD), and other data outputs, such as a clock or temperature gauge.

Benefits of a Digital Cockpit

Before the advent of the digital cockpit, different data readouts within a vehicle were essentially separate entities and fixed in function. The entertainment system would have its readouts, while speed and trip information would be focused on the instrument binnacle via a dedicated dial or numerical panel.

With a digital cockpit, multiple displays are connected so that satnav and entertainment system information can be fed to the instrument binnacle or HUD, and trip or car status information can be shown on the infotainment screen. Because each display accesses data from a central source, there’s an opportunity for synchronization.

One of the key benefits of a digital cockpit is reconfigurability, whereby the driver can choose which pieces of information are shown and on which display. Entertainment settings such as the current music track or radio station can be changed using the instrument binnacle, so the driver doesn’t have to take their eyes off the road. For an electric vehicle, the remaining range can be shown alongside the navigation display on the central infotainment screen, so the driver can choose an optimum place to stop to recharge.

Examples of a Digital Cockpit

Most vehicle manufacturers offer digital cockpits with various levels of feature sophistication. These platforms include:

How a Digital Cockpit Works

Central to the operation of a digital cockpit is integration between automotive systems. The method for achieving this will vary between vehicle manufacturers. Some employ a powerful central computer system that acts as a hub, driving the different displays and control surfaces. This central computer will orchestrate peripheral embedded systems. Other manufacturers have more powerful peripheral systems with less emphasis on the central computer.

Either way, various types of vehicle networking, such as CAN, LIN, FlexRay, and Ethernet, bring data from the different ECUs and sensors in the vehicle into the digital cockpit. This data is then displayed natively (such as current speed or distance when parking) or integrated with other information (such as battery state of charge for an EV feeding into satnav routing to optimal charger locations).

The digital cockpit may integrate heterogeneous systems supplied by third parties, which could be virtualized and run through an automotive hypervisor. This will enable systems to be kept separate while also facilitating the exchange of data between them in a controlled way. Software modules can drive the different displays throughout the car, delivering data where appropriate.

For example, the HUD could receive speed, speed limit, ADAS warnings, and simplified navigation instructions. The instrument binnacle could also receive this data alongside trip information, a rev counter or power/regeneration display (for an EV), and music or radio station listings. The infotainment screen could show a complete satnav map, including traffic information, with estimated arrival times updated in real time.

Digital Cockpits Versus Analog Dials

Analog dials are easy to read at a glance, but a digital cockpit can replicate these dials by displaying information in this format but virtually. And while an analog dial is dedicated to a single use (e.g., speed, engine revs, or fuel tank level), a digital display can be customized to show any data in any format. This can be a simulation of an analog dial or a numerical readout. Some digital cockpit systems change the display style depending on motor power settings and could even let the driver choose between analog or numerical configurations. Digital cockpits provide many opportunities for the driver to choose how and where they receive information about their vehicle.
The BlackBerry IVY® platform leverages BlackBerry® QNX®, edge computing, and the cloud to support a future-proof digital ecosystem. It gives developers and automakers a secure, reliable way to share vehicle data, deliver new features and functionality, and fuel both present and future innovation. Backed by BlackBerry expertise, it’s compatible with most OS and cloud platforms, offering advanced personalization and access to our broad development community. 

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