OLED display technology has made its way into televisions and smartphones, and now automotive technology supplier Visteon is exploring how it can be used in cars with very high resolution imagery, bright, crisp colors that don't use much energy, and are very thin. At CES 2017, Visteon showed off examples of OLED displays designed as car instrument clusters and infotainment interfaces.
Figure 1 OLED Instrument Cluster Graphics, Curves into a Car's Dashboard.
The bright colors make these displays immediately eye-catching. The relatively thin plastic that makes up an OLED can be curved, meaning automotive designers don't have to place a large, flat piece of glass somewhere on the dashboard. An OLED can mold to fit the curvature of in-car surfaces. A few hurdles remain for incorporating OLED display technologies in cars. A Visteon spokesperson pointed out that, while fine for the home, the screens degrade more quickly from the temperature variations and conditions of a car's cabin. Blue pixels in particular suffer from the in-car environment. Incorporating a touch surface also presents a problem, especially when taking advantage of an OLED's thin form factor and flexibility to shape it into a dashboard space.
According to UBI Research, the automotive display market will grow by 17% between 2017 and 2022, with OLED displays accounting for 20% of the $25b market in 2022. While the prediction cites the lifetime of current OLED displays as being below the necessary standards for automotive applications, they expect materials will continue to improve and lifetimes will meet the necessary levels for inclusion in automotive displays at more than negligible amounts by 2019. Early OLED displays will be limited to premium automotive models, but the ability of OLED displays to be shaped to console and dashboard curvature is expected to make them a necessary part of automobile manufacturers need for product differentiation.
We expect that the flexibility of OLED displays will provide an advantage vs. rigid display modalities, however the automotive industry is relatively slow moving compared to the CE market, where product cycles are a year or less. We are a little less sanguine about the penetration rate, and would expect a more measured pace of adoption as a mass-market product. Both Samsung and LG showed OLED displays for automotive applications in their suites and the common theme was that reaching the 85°C threshold remains a difficult problem and is being addressed with new materials. They both gave timeframes of 2020, which left us skeptical that a solution was in hand.