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Vehicle screens go super-sized on the CES as the tech catches

LAS VEGAS – a look at the vehicle displays shown at CES, and you could be forgiven for thinking you are at the movies.

A dashboard video screen is displayed in a Byton M-Byte electric vehicle during the 2019 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA January 8, 2019. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

“This is no science fiction!”, announced the head of Byton, an electric vehicle startup, on the podium earlier this week at the global technology conference in Las Vegas. CEO and Chairman Carsten Breitfeld was referring to the jaw-dropping, 48-inch (1.22 m) screen in the Chinese-funded company M-Byte car.

Byton the vehicle will not be built until later this year. But the super-sized display – supplied by China’s BOE Technology Group, is demonstrating a distinct trend in the automotive world, fueled by the emergence of more connected cars.

“The screens are the window to the digital world,” says Gorden Wagener, chief design officer for Mercedes-benz, Mercedes-Benz parent. “The screens are the new force.”

The 2019 Mercedes EQC crossover features two 10.25-inch screens behind a glass surface in the form of a free-standing screen.

It is not only futuristic electric and luxury vehicles that upping the size ante. Fiat-Chrysler’s 2019 RAM 1500 truck features a 12-inch vertical display in the dashboard.

In addition to the center console, instrument clusters, which house drive controls, and rear-seat entertainment displays are both growing in size. Car manufacturers such as Audi (VOWG_p.DE) that together make up the centre console and instrument panel often refer to a “cockpit,” so that a wide, beautiful screen, as Byton’s, and more consolidated power. (few.rs/2FhSCx2)

Car manufacturers are adding a rearview mirror display to project images from a camera to the back, while the “heads-up displays” – where the projected images float at the windscreen to give valuable information to the driver – an exploding market.

“We live in a display-centered world,” said Brian Rhodes, jack in the Car, Research Lead at IHS Markit. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence we have a lot of screens in vehicles that look just like tablets. That is clearly the trend.”

The average size of the world vehicle center display in 2018 at 7.7 inches, according to IHS Markit, and is expected to grow to 8.4 cm 2024.

Heads-up displays are the fastest growing segment, display, Rhodes said. There are currently about 6.3 million cars in the world that this gives, but that figure is expected to balloon to 14.1 million by 2024, ” he said.

AWKWARD USER EXPERIENCE?

Tesla Inc. was the first wow drivers and send rival automakers scrambling when it came out in 2012 with a 17-inch LCD display for the Model S. of Apple Inc. and Alphabet, Inc. Google then introduced CarPlay and Android Auto, which allows the streaming of music, maps, and other apps to be accessed via car from the centre view.

That’s more than the Tesla’s influence is the main reason that car manufacturers have embraced larger screens, Rhodes said. But Apple and Google’s debut in the car’s main screen, ushered in a laden soul searching by vehicle manufacturers, who are loath to cede such valuable real estate on the tech rivals, but still anxious to give consumers the iPhone experience that they crave.

That tension is still playing in the car, where some car manufacturers ‘passive-aggressive’ about it to fully integrate Apple or Google for an optimal experience, said automotive research director at Gartner, Mike Ramsey. The result is an often awkward user experience.

In some cases, Ramsey said: “They’re supersizing the screen without any actual benefit.”

In October, the influential U.S. magazine Consumer Reports yanked the recommendations of the four models from Fiat Chrysler automobiles NV, Ford Motor Co and Honda Motor Co Ltd by feedback of consumers about freezing or blank screens.

Although such problems arise from the back-end tech that is decisive for the content and not the screens themselves, “the consumer that it is one and the same,” Rhodes said.

Short of inviting the technology companies in the vehicle, to the control of the user experience – as Volvo AB announced in November it would do with an Android-based infotainment system – car manufacturers are faced with the task of designing an interface that consumers actually want to use.

“If it is guided by the car manufacturer to design the user interface this can be a big question,” said Rhodes. Until recently, he said, “was not their core competency.”

Mercedes’ MBUX user interface that last year at CES, is seen within the industry as the one to beat.

“Of course we want as the owner of the property in our own car,” newly named Daimler AG CEO Ola Kaellenius told a small group of journalists on Tuesday. “You must have your own digital soul of your car.”

Key to that, however, was having an “open source mentality” so that’s Mercedes’ ecosystem would be able to integrate with others, he said, such as Google and Apple.

CLARITY IS KEY

Car manufacturers say that if done properly, a larger screen can increase safety by providing useful information, such as traffic lights on red, reports of accidents or the roads ahead.

Driver distraction would go down, not rise, with a larger screen, say they, if the drivers no longer have to struggle with a large number of options are cluttered on a small screen.

FILE PHOTO: The interior of Byton the M-Byte of the electric vehicle, equipped with a massive screen, is displayed after the vehicle’s unveiling during the 2019 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA January 6, 2019. REUTERS/Alexandria Sage

“You must have a place to visually display that information to the driver in a way that is effective and not disruptive. So you have real estate,” said Abe Chen, vice-president of the Digital Technology in Byton.

The optional 10-inch display on the 2020 Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle and the standard 8-inch display – were intended to discourage drivers from getting immersed in too much data through the stacking of information, including CarPlay and Android Auto, Ruth Vann, Ford’s user experience supervisor, told Reuters this month.

“There are things that we will lock during the ride,” she said, adding that the customers are encouraged to use voice commands.

Reporting by Alexandria Sage in Las Vegas; Editing by Greg Mitchell and Matthew Lewis

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