One option is to place the screen higher in the stack, closer to the top of the instrument panel or even slightly above it. But moving the screen too high can produce a reflection of the screen image on the windshield. Engineers usually have solved this problem by placing the screen in the middle of the console.
New developments in optical film technology that soon may be commercialized may help eliminate screen reflection. This would let designers move the display higher and free up more space.
Another key issue in display design is the amount and type of information and how it is presented. Many display units have navigation features. Those let users drill down dozens of screens deep.
Drivers can select maps with elevated, exploded or flat views. Users also can zoom in or out or choose to display gasoline stations, ATMs, restaurants, even types of restaurants. All this is in addition to screens or clusters showing audio, climate settings, weather and other basic information.
Info-glut is forcing carmakers to question assumptions about how display content is used or whether it is used at all.
"The amount of information available to the driver is increasing at a high rate," says Steve Holmes, Chrysler LLC's senior manager of advanced interior components. Holmes says things could get out of hand if the trend continues.
"One of the biggest challenges is how do you integrate all this information into the vehicle in a simple way that doesn't overwhelm," he says.