Bosch aims to make your car’s instrument panel a 3D display, no goggles required. Crucial warnings would be in 3D; for instance, the forward collision warning — BRAKE! — but not the current fuel level, and perhaps not a low-fuel warning. A 3D warning would visually float above the rest of the instrument panel. The 3D notification could also be used for other time-sensitive warnings such as a sharply curved road, possibly triggered only if the driver’s speed is too high to safely make the turn, or for lane departure or blind spot warnings.
Bosch says the 3D warnings would not require 3D glasses or eye tracking (to determine the location of the driver’s head and sightlines). 3D might also be helpful in rear backup cameras. It will reveal details at the massive Frankfurt Auto Show next month.
“Grasp Important Visual Information Faster”
While there have been so-called 3D products before used in cars, which can be as little as 3D-building shading on 3D maps, Bosch says this is real 3D. According to Steffen Berns, president of Bosch Car Multimedia, “The display’s depth of field means drivers can grasp important visual information faster, whether from an assistance system or a traffic-jam alert. Alerts that seem to jump out of the display are much more obvious and urgent.”
Bosch also sees rear parking and backing being simpler and safer with 3D vision. When parking, the rear-view camera
image is more realistic, allowing obstacles to be detected earlier, and drivers can get an even better idea of how much space they have left between the rear fender and, say, a parking garage wall, Berns says.
Previous Bosch products included 3D vision in factory automation, 3D modeling as part of automated parking solutions, and the mapping of 3D elements in an electronic horizon solution. The announced Bosch technology is for the instrument panel — the one behind the steering wheel, not the center stack display or head-up display. Bosch won’t comment on where else Bosch would or might deploy the technology. It should be noted that the head-up display already lines up well with the driver’s line of sight. At the same time, cars that have important notifications — particularly the Brake Now warnings — are pretty hard to miss in 2D when they’re in the HUD.
“The new 3D display creates a convincing three-dimensional effect that both drivers and passengers can see – without 3D glasses or eye-tracking,” said spokesman Tim Wieland. “This brings an unprecedented sense of depth to vehicle instrumentation and improved visualization to assistance systems, for example the reversing camera.”
To the extent 3D without glasses (glasses like the one you got if you bought a 3D TV 5-10 years ago, except nobody got that excited by 3D except for the movie Avatar) needs the viewer to be more or less on-axis, this might open up the possibility of a separate panel in front of the passenger. Bosch says a single Bosch controller can handle every display in the car, such as the instrument panel, HUD, center stack panel(s), and inside mirror camera; it would be easy to add one more for the passenger. Some cars (non-Bosch-instrumented) have as many as 15 separate video/vision controllers that add weight and complexity, not to mention interconnect cables that could corrode.
3D Better Than the Old 3D
If 3D displays in cars sounds like technology that’s already in cars, it depends what 3D means. Bosch’s 3D announcement here appears to be about the use of stereoscopic vision using both eyes. Nobody’s going to argue that isn’t 3D. What exists already is 3D-perspective navigation mapping on a 2D display. In a zoomed-in view, a building would use shading to appear three-dimensional. To a lesser extent, shading on on-screen buttons creates a 3D effect, and some touch displays actually create a pulse that makes you feel as if you physically pushed a button.
The new version of MBUX, the Mercedes-Benz User Experience, has self-described 3D displays. Gordon Wagener, chief design officer for Mercedes, told Business Insider the MBUX display creates an impression of depth, rather than “popping out” at the user (as the Bosch display does). Mercedes also uses the head-up display to overlay mapping information such as a turn arrow in the line-of-sight between the driver and the physical turn or junction.
Instrument panel displays are quickly shifting from analog to digital, as well as higher quality displays such as OLED. In addition, the consumer demand for music and navigation from smartphones means buyers want to see at least a 5-inch color display in the center stack. Global Market Insights forecasts the demand for will double by 2025, to $30 billion a year (26.7 euros).
Getting Ready for the Frankfurt Auto Show
Now that the Frankfurt Show (also called IAA, for Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung) is just a month out, suppliers and automakers are starting to beat the drum for their cars, SUVs, EVs, and component products. If you’ve been to the January CES show in Las Vegas, multiply the crowds and vendors clamoring for attention by 4x to 5x. Frankfurt runs in odd years only, drew a reported 810,000 attendees in 2017, and hit 1 million twice this century, according to IAA. This year’s show starts with press days Sept. 10-11.
It’s safe to say the show will focus on alternative energy sources (other than the combustion gasoline engine), safety, and technology that makes driving safer, easier, or more productive. The current US price of gasoline, $2.65 a gallon, is about a dollar below the historical peak (reached in the first half of this decade), so the price and supply seem good, but the rest of the world is not as sanguine as we are.