Smart Dashboard

Electronic Control Takes a Giant Leap with

Smart Dashboard

Over the past few years electronic control systems have become increasingly common in heavy vehicles and are now taken for granted as a natural part of all modern designs. Electronic systems are smart; they are able to improve steering precision, reduce fuel consumption and manage complex control tasks that are not practically possible to carry out using other technologies.But while control systems have rapidly gained greater significance in vehicles, the development of operator interfaces has lagged behind. Discrete instruments and physical controls that limit command functions and restrict the information displayed can still be found in many vehicles. While some vehicles have displays as a part of their instrumentation few have exploited the full potential computer technology offers.


When it comes to selecting a display it is important to know the type of information that will be shown during different operational circumstances, which along with sufficient space for a good location in the cab, is crucial in determining display size and resolution. The ability to manage display brightness in varying ambient light levels is also important. Driver’s cabs use ever more glass and it is rarely possible to shield against sunlight from every angle, so displays must be very bright, but with the ability to dim automatically for night-time operations. There are good displays available on the market today, but each alternative must be carefully evaluated in practice as there are several different characteristics that must work in concert for the desired visual experience to be achieved.

Touch screens

Everyone would probably agree that this is where the greatest development has taken place in recent years. A few years ago resistive technology dominated; it functioned well and was inexpensive. Unfortunately it lacked a good, distinct feel and also diminished display brightness. But the new technologies that have emerged in connection with modern smartphones have resulted in touch screens enjoying a boom. Today there are multitouch and gesture control displays whose new capabilities mean that user interfaces can become even more appealing and user friendly. The widespread use of smartphones also means that users feel at home with touch screens and they demand them in other applications. Today’s touch screens largely eliminate the necessity for discrete buttons and controls and can replace them with on-screen controls. They have the great advantage of not being limited to a single control array but provide the ability to customize controls to suit a variety of operational applications.

Design solutions

During the pioneer years of driver’s cab displays it was often a matter of installing a more-or-less encapsulated unit somewhere suitable in the cab. Cabs were laid out practically and no great effort was devoted to design. But the pressures of competition have led to design becoming an important factor in heavy vehicles and today we see plant and equipment in increasing numbers whose manufacturers stress appearance and style. In principle there are three different levels of integration. Enclosed display units for installation on attachment fittings, displays for recessing in panels or fully integrated units for installation behind the instrument panel. Displays in the last alternative can be installed behind a plastic or glass panel in order to provide a protected, uniform appearance. With the right technology this can take place without the touch-screen function being impaired. In this case the designer has much greater latitude to adapt control system appearance, form and function to other functions that must be present in the cab.

Multiple displays

A single display unit is usually sufficient for standard applications, but in many operations there is a need to access more information without having to navigate through a sequence of windows. The driver must be able to see important operational parameters connected with driving the base machine while also monitoring one or more operational applications. There is seldom sufficient space for large displays in vehicles and a good solution is to spread the visualization across several units. This is where the touch screen has a unique advantage with its strong link between image and control action. When multiple displays are used it is important to ensure the solution is homogenous so that the connection between the various units remains synchronized.

Connectivity and infotainment

Today great demands are placed on being able to run a variety of standard applications from the vehicle. This applies not only to work vehicles where the driver spends the major part of the working day in the driver’s seat and has a need to communicate with the surrounding world, but also in situations where he wishes to transfer on-line information, radio, video and music to passengers. There are great gains to be made in integrating MMI controls for the distribution of these functions. A powerful processor platform in an environment that can manage the integration of the various desired applications will be necessary for this to be effective. It will be important to adhere to open standards such as Windows, Android, Ethernet and USB when building the platform and interconnecting resources. In this way there is always an ability to cope with any extensions and new functions since the demand for these types of applications tends to increase constantly. Another important issue we should not lose sight of in this context is the ability to isolate machine-critical functions from person-oriented applications. It is possible to tackle this with today’s processors but it will require special care.

Smart dashboards

The term Smart Dashboard really means an amalgamation of the areas we have addressed above. It is a solution that exploits to the full several available technologies and presents them to the user in an efficient, well-adapted manner. Today’s requirements are not just for onboard systems that control a machine and its applications, but for systems with extensive communications and all of the server services normally available from a computer with an internet connection. We have seen examples of integrated fleet management systems, navigation and tracking systems based on GPS, production reporting, transport orders and integration with server-based applications, to name but a few. Demands also increase in such a complex environment on the ability to rapidly adapt operational conditions to different driver language and comfort settings, or operational situations determined by applications. This can be achieved by driver identification, login or RFID. A Smart Dashboard is nothing short of the creation of consistent driver environments. These days we see hair-raising examples of solutions where a number of subsystems from different manufacturers have been slung haphazardly into a cab without any coordination. The best way to put an end to this is to choose a good platform and make sure that all the different subsystems are properly integrated into it. 
Dasa Control Systems AB, Hammerdalsvägen 3, S-352 46 Växjö | Tel: +46 (0)470 77 09 50 | Fax: +46 (0)470 77 09 87 |