Dashboards and entertainment systems for many mass-market cars will be getting major overhauls in the coming years, at least if some auto industry players have their way.
At one CES exhibit after another from top-tier automakers and their hardware and chip suppliers, one could spot giant "digital cockpit" solutions that paired a cluster of digital instruments with an infotainment system featuring one or more displays. Mercedes had its MBUX system, which debuted on its 2019 A-class cars, on display, while BMW showed off the technology-packed interior it plans for its iNext electric crossover, which is due in 2021.
Samsung's (SSNLF) Harman unit unveiled a dual-display system that personalized its settings and content with the help of a paired smartphone. Qualcomm (QCOM) demoed an LG Electronics system that put the instrument cluster and main infotainment system on a common 30-inch display, while also delivering content to rear displays built into a car's seats. And NXP Semiconductors (NXPI) showed off a three-display system that relied on Linux for its instrument cluster and on Android for its infotainment system.
And though these solutions will probably need some fine-tuning to prevent them from being too distracting or invasive, firms such as Qualcomm and (via its new Drive Autopilot platform) and Nvidia (NVDA) were promoting solutions that could layer useful real-world information and content onto a driver's view. The solutions also leverage machine learning algorithms to personalize settings and issue safety alerts. The pending arrival of cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) systems that let cars communicate with each other and radios built into roadside infrastructure should help make these offerings more useful.
In addition, though the self-driving car market is in its very early stages, industry players continue hatching creative ideas for shaping the interiors of cars in which there are no steering wheels or pedals, there's no need for constant side visibility and in which no one is preoccupied with driving the vehicle. Intel, for its part, ran a Batman-themed demo with Warner Bros. in which it effectively turned a car into a home theater on wheels.
Automotive design cycles are relatively long, and so many of the offerings being shown off probably won't arrive in mass-market vehicles until 2021 or 2022. And some of them might be restricted to high-end cars due to their cost. But it's safe to assume that the interiors of many popular mid-range and high-end cars will look a lot different in a few years' time.