Companies think of turning car dashboards into ‘virtual cockpits’

Visteon Corp

Peer at the cockpit console on your new car and you may discover streamlined digital gauges and multicolored screens. But a look behind the dashboard could unveil exactly what U.S. vehicle supplier Visteon Corp discovered: a mess.

As automotive cockpits become crammed with ever more digital functions such as navigation and entertainment systems, the electronics holding it all together have become a rat’s nest of parts made by different parts makers.

Now the race is on to clean up the mess.

Visteon is amongst a variety of suppliers intending to make dashboard innards easier, less expensive and lighter as the industry speeds up towards a so-called virtual cockpit – an all-digital dashboard that will help usher in the era of self-driving vehicles.

Exactly what’s at stake is a piece of the $37-billion cockpit electronic devices market, estimated by research company IHS Markit to almost double to $62 billion by 2022. Accounting firm PwC approximates that electronic devices could represent up to 20 percent of a car’s value in the next 2 years, rise from 13 percent in 2015.

Meanwhile, the amount of providers for those elements is likely to diminish as automakers seek to deal with fewer companies efficient in doing more, according to Mark Boyadjis, principal automobile expert at IHS Markit.

“The complexity of engineering ten different systems from ten different providers is not something an automaker wishes to do,” Boyadjis stated.

He approximates producers eventually will deal with 2 to 3 cockpit providers for each model.

Among Visteon’s solutions is a computer module called “SmartCore.” This cockpit domain controller runs a vehicle’s instrument cluster, infotainment system and other functions, all on the same tiny piece of silicon.

Up until now this year, the Detroit-based company has landed 2 huge contracts for undisclosed amounts. One, revealed in April, is with China’s second-largest automaker, Dongfeng Motor. The other is with Mercedes-Benz, Reuters found. Mercedes did not replied to requests for comment. Another unnamed European car manufacturer thinks about using the system in 2018, according to Visteon.

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