What Is a Digital Cockpit?
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:
- PATEO Digital Cockpit, powered by Blackberry QNX and IVY
- Stellantis SmartCockpit
- Samsung HARMAN Digital Cockpit Platform
- BlackBerry QNX Platform for Digital Cockpits
- BMW Live Cockpit Professional
- Volkswagen Digital Cockpit
- Mercedes Digital Cockpit with MBUX
- Porsche Driver Experience
- Qualcomm Snapdragon Automotive Cockpit Platform
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
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