Creating Digital Instrument Clusters with Qt

Qt is widely used in automotive infotainment systems with a number of OS and platform configurations. Some of the car manufacturers have already introduced Qt also in their digital instrument clusters. We believe there will many more in the coming years. Therefore, we have started focused research and development during last year to make cluster creation with Qt more efficient, and recently presented the first generation demonstrator at Embedded World 2016 in Nürnberg, Germany.

In the automotive industry there is a strong trend to create instrument clusters using digital graphics rather than the traditional analog gauges. Unlike in the first digital clusters in the 70’s using 7-segment displays to indicate speed, today’s cars typically show a digital representation of the analog speedometer along with a wide array of other information, such as tachometer, navigation, vehicle information and infotainment content. The benefits compared to analog gauges are obvious, for example it is possible to adapt the displayed items according to the driver’s needs in different situations, as well as easily create regional variants or adapt style of the instrument cluster to the car model.

The cluster demonstrator we created is running Qt for Device Creation version 5.6 on NXP’s widely used i.MX6 CPU. To show the possibilities Qt brings, we are actively leveraging Qt functionality such as Qt Location for mapping data and GPS coordinates, Qt Multimedia for reverse camera view, Qt SerialBus for transfer of vehicle data via CanBUS, and Qt 3D for visualization of the vehicle model in the diagnostics view. The whole UI is built with Qt Quick, and the logic is created with C++ using the versatile Qt APIs.

The following video presents the cluster demonstrator as shown in the Qt stand at the Embedded World event:

Main display of the cluster is a 12,3” HSXGA (1280x480) screen and the second screen used in the demonstrator is a touch panel for simulating events such as turn indicator, putting gear to reverse, tire pressure dropping, a door being open, etc. The controller sends information via the CanBUS to the cluster, which then reacts to the events accordingly.

The demonstrator is running on embedded Linux, using the Qt for Device Creation as baseline. In addition to embedded Linux, Qt supports many real-time operating systems, which are commonly used in the digital instrument clusters. Using a real-time operating system makes it easier to achieve a functional safety certification for the system, as some real-time operating systems are already certified according to the needed functional safety standard requirements.

Our research and development efforts continue with a goal to make it straightforward to build leading digital instrument clusters with Qt. We believe that Qt is a good choice for building both the infotainment system as well as the cluster, and that it is beneficial to use the same technology in both these screens. Stay tuned for more, or contact us to discuss how Qt can be used in automotive and other industries already today.

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