Visteon and the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London have unveiled a jointly developed future car cockpit concept designed to address growing demands on driver attention and the integration of vehicle and portable consumer electronics devices.

The concept model is on display at the RCA’s first innovation exhibition which explores the college’s relationship with business and industry.

The concept features new laser projection technology which Visteon has developed with Philips. Visteon claims that the laser technology enables a high-quality 3-D display that is superior to that achieved using conventional driver display technology. In addition to the new display technology, the concept also examines the way in which information can be prioritised for the driver.

The unit’s dashboard space is divided into three areas, with critical information such as speed at the top, warning lights at the bottom and a large central area that can be determined by the driver. For the central area the driver chooses a source of information to be displayed, which could be audio, climate, navigation or a portable electronics device that is being used with the vehicle – mobile phone, PDA or MP3 player.

“Drivers are using more portable electronics devices in their vehicles, which increases the number of information sources within the car and therefore raises the issue of driver distraction,” said Jim Fleming, Visteon’s Innovation Leader.

The multi-mode central area, combined with the constant display of critical information such as speed in an area above that, was described as providing a solution to increasing information demands in an age of greater connectivity with portable devices.

“Think of the dashboard as PC desktop – the user selects what he wants,” said RCA Research Associate and project designer Serge Porcher. “But we have looked at the information heirarchy to take the load off the driver,” he added. 

Visteon expects that the ability to ‘deep dive’ your music library will especially appeal to a growing group of tech-savvy consumers and the cockpit concept is seen as highly relevant to model ranges that also appeal to that group.

“We hope that the future car cockpit will evolve into a product that will allow vehicle manufacturers to use conventional cockpit architectures while providing a flexible HMI (Human Machine Interface) platform that can be targeted at different consumer groups,” Fleming said.

Fleming also said that Visteon expects to have a fully functioning cockpit concept unit ready by the end of this year and would be discussing the unit with car companies and looking for a joint-development project with an OEM partner.

He added that the technology could be in a production vehicle by 2010, noting that while the laser technology is new and would carry a ‘very small premium’, he didn’t expect that the end user would see any price difference.

Dave Leggett