How Dashboard Displays Work

Dashboard Display Design
Miss the good old days? Here's the dashboard display in an antique car.
Miss the good old days? Here's the dashboard display in an antique car.

First impressions are important, and a dashboard provides your introduction to each automobile you drive. Designers get paid to think about what each person might want from the dashboard, because, unlike with potential partners, you're not likely to ask for a second date with that car if you don't get the information you need upfront. The style, shape and layout of the dashboard can be a deal-breaker when buying a car.

That's why some drivers may have a completely electronic dashboard display, while others still watch the rise and fall of a needle; it seems that young drivers and women, in particular, have more of an affinity for the digital model [source: Barron]. Some drivers want as much information as possible about their driving and their car; people with displays that show real-time fuel economy information might make a game out of trying to improve their driving with each mile. The aging baby boomer generation, however, wants basic information in an easy-to-read format [source: Coughlin].

­The need to control additional technology, from power mirrors to a stereo system, means that dashboard displays will only become more diverse in the future. In 2006, writers at PC Magazine imagined a future dashboard that included drowsiness sensors, advanced navigation systems and voice recognition systems that allow you to ask your car questions. This dashboard of the future will also let you pick which instrument gauges you want to see at a given time and project that display on the windshield, so that less eye movement is required [source: PC Magazine]. That means you'll have more time to move your eyes toward the custom entertainment system, full of your favorite music and videos.

That begs the question, of course, as to when a dashboard display becomes a dashboard distraction. Safety advocacy groups worry that drivers will perceive that most of the driving is being done for them with dashboard gadgets such as self-parking devices, lane-change alerts and cruise control. These people will pay less attention to the road and their driving, while even those who are trying to pay attention will be distracted by the constant hum of beeps and the constant flash of notifications from the dashboard. There's a balance to strike multitasking and keeping those eyes on the road.

Drive on over to the next page for more on the interesting features of your automobile.

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