Going Graphical in the Cockpit: Page 2 of 4

November 21, 2013 //By Klaus Neuenhüskes, Toshiba Electronics Europe
Going Graphical in the Cockpit
Adaptive and context-sensitive graphical instrumentation can now be found in an increasing number of mid-range cars, providing a means to manage and present information optimally to help improve driver control and safety. These advanced graphical dashboards also offer the potential for smartphone-like flexibility to customise and personalise the user experience. What makes a suitable instrument controller, capable of supporting further enhancements in the future?
supporting typical screen resolutions of 800 x 480 or sometimes higher is becoming more common in today’s microcontrollers, particularly high-end multimedia-oriented devices. However, all-in-one microcontrollers suitable for automotive driver information applications must be capable of overcoming complex challenges such as graphical rendering of rotating pointers, provide automotive industry-standard anti-tamper/anti-hacking security, and in addition should provide the flexibility for vendors to optimise the features and price for various markets; for example by minimising memory requirements and permitting lower-cost TFT-LCDs.

In addition, functional blocks supporting high-performance graphics effects such as perspective transformation, as well as built-in multi-channel stepper-motor control for conventional dials, are valuable features that help to create a strong all-in-one microcontroller suitable for the task.

Clear Pointers

Graphically rendering the rotating pointer of a virtual dial is a complex undertaking, since the end result must be lifelike and visually pleasing to the user in order to be acceptable in the automotive marketplace (figure 2). Care must be taken, for example, to avoid unwanted stroboscopic effects which can be distracting for the driver and will attract unfavourable comparisons with conventional dials. Toshiba has overcome this challenge with the patented stroboscopic compensation feature in its Capricorn-Bt0/1 all-in-one microcontrollers, which are designed specifically for automotive advanced instrumentation applications. The stroboscopic compensation is based on a hardware bitmap rotation block, which handles overlaying of the rotated pointer onto a graphical background with angular resolution as fine as 0.1°. A filtering algorithm is implemented to optimise the appearance of the pointer.

The Capricorn microcontrollers also integrate stepper-motor control interfaces, thereby providing the flexibility to support projects combining advanced graphical effects with conventional physical dials.

Figure 2. Rotated pointer as an overlay.

Inside the Graphics Engine

To help manage system cost and provide flexibility for manufacturers to differentiate products for various market sectors, some of the microcontrollers in the market today provide special features that help minimise memory requirements and boost performance when a low-cost display

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