Digital dashboards to revolutionize driving

Within five years, drivers will have electronic eyes in the back of the car thanks to next generation digital dashboards that are Web-enabled, programmable and more accurate than traditional instruments.

So says Visteon Automotive Systems, a Ford subsidiary, that is developing the new digital car instrument display. The system will be tested in Ford cards towards the end of next year.

The new display system takes up the same space as a standard instrument display and can be tailored to suit the driver. For instance, the user can alter the size and colour of the speedometer. Additionally, the display will be Internet-enabled.

Visteon claims that the electronic dash boards will not only provide more accurate and clearly visible instrument displays, but also a view of the back seat using in-car cameras. Ultra-clarity is achieved by using a digital image projection technology called Digital Light Processing. This process is made possible by using a Digital Micromiror Device (DMD), a postage-stamp-sized semiconductor developed by Texas Instruments. The DMD provides a better alternative to liquid crystal or cathode ray display technologies.

Tristan Young, a journalist for Auto Car, said the technology would be a hit: "With the ease of use and the features such as Internet access, it's brilliant. There would be numerous advantages to having a reconfigurable instrument display."

However, surfing while cruising is not recommended. Users of the new system face the same restrictions imposed other electronic gadgets such as mobile phones and navigation systems. In the UK, drivers must be stationary while using such devises.