WO2009138131A1 - Digital vehicle dashboard - Google Patents

Digital vehicle dashboard Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2009138131A1
WO2009138131A1 PCT/EP2008/056073 EP2008056073W WO2009138131A1 WO 2009138131 A1 WO2009138131 A1 WO 2009138131A1 EP 2008056073 W EP2008056073 W EP 2008056073W WO 2009138131 A1 WO2009138131 A1 WO 2009138131A1
Authority
WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
vehicle
processing unit
data processing
programmable data
operative
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/EP2008/056073
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Davide Annunziato
Original Assignee
W4C Limited
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Application filed by W4C Limited filed Critical W4C Limited
Priority to PCT/EP2008/056073 priority Critical patent/WO2009138131A1/en
Publication of WO2009138131A1 publication Critical patent/WO2009138131A1/en

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Classifications

    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60KARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PROPULSION UNITS OR OF TRANSMISSIONS IN VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PLURAL DIVERSE PRIME-MOVERS IN VEHICLES; AUXILIARY DRIVES FOR VEHICLES; INSTRUMENTATION OR DASHBOARDS FOR VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENTS IN CONNECTION WITH COOLING, AIR INTAKE, GAS EXHAUST OR FUEL SUPPLY OF PROPULSION UNITS IN VEHICLES
    • B60K35/00Arrangement of adaptations of instruments
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60KARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PROPULSION UNITS OR OF TRANSMISSIONS IN VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PLURAL DIVERSE PRIME-MOVERS IN VEHICLES; AUXILIARY DRIVES FOR VEHICLES; INSTRUMENTATION OR DASHBOARDS FOR VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENTS IN CONNECTION WITH COOLING, AIR INTAKE, GAS EXHAUST OR FUEL SUPPLY OF PROPULSION UNITS IN VEHICLES
    • B60K37/00Dashboards
    • B60K37/04Arrangement of fittings on dashboard
    • B60K37/06Arrangement of fittings on dashboard of controls, e.g. controls knobs
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60KARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PROPULSION UNITS OR OF TRANSMISSIONS IN VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PLURAL DIVERSE PRIME-MOVERS IN VEHICLES; AUXILIARY DRIVES FOR VEHICLES; INSTRUMENTATION OR DASHBOARDS FOR VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENTS IN CONNECTION WITH COOLING, AIR INTAKE, GAS EXHAUST OR FUEL SUPPLY OF PROPULSION UNITS IN VEHICLES
    • B60K2370/00Details of arrangements or adaptations of instruments specially adapted for vehicles, not covered by groups B60K35/00, B60K37/00
    • B60K2370/10Input devices or features thereof
    • B60K2370/12Input devices or input features
    • B60K2370/143Touch sensitive input devices
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60KARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PROPULSION UNITS OR OF TRANSMISSIONS IN VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PLURAL DIVERSE PRIME-MOVERS IN VEHICLES; AUXILIARY DRIVES FOR VEHICLES; INSTRUMENTATION OR DASHBOARDS FOR VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENTS IN CONNECTION WITH COOLING, AIR INTAKE, GAS EXHAUST OR FUEL SUPPLY OF PROPULSION UNITS IN VEHICLES
    • B60K2370/00Details of arrangements or adaptations of instruments specially adapted for vehicles, not covered by groups B60K35/00, B60K37/00
    • B60K2370/10Input devices or features thereof
    • B60K2370/12Input devices or input features
    • B60K2370/143Touch sensitive input devices
    • B60K2370/1438Touch screens
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60KARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PROPULSION UNITS OR OF TRANSMISSIONS IN VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PLURAL DIVERSE PRIME-MOVERS IN VEHICLES; AUXILIARY DRIVES FOR VEHICLES; INSTRUMENTATION OR DASHBOARDS FOR VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENTS IN CONNECTION WITH COOLING, AIR INTAKE, GAS EXHAUST OR FUEL SUPPLY OF PROPULSION UNITS IN VEHICLES
    • B60K2370/00Details of arrangements or adaptations of instruments specially adapted for vehicles, not covered by groups B60K35/00, B60K37/00
    • B60K2370/15Output devices or features thereof
    • B60K2370/152Displays
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60KARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PROPULSION UNITS OR OF TRANSMISSIONS IN VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PLURAL DIVERSE PRIME-MOVERS IN VEHICLES; AUXILIARY DRIVES FOR VEHICLES; INSTRUMENTATION OR DASHBOARDS FOR VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENTS IN CONNECTION WITH COOLING, AIR INTAKE, GAS EXHAUST OR FUEL SUPPLY OF PROPULSION UNITS IN VEHICLES
    • B60K2370/00Details of arrangements or adaptations of instruments specially adapted for vehicles, not covered by groups B60K35/00, B60K37/00
    • B60K2370/15Output devices or features thereof
    • B60K2370/155Virtual instruments
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60KARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PROPULSION UNITS OR OF TRANSMISSIONS IN VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PLURAL DIVERSE PRIME-MOVERS IN VEHICLES; AUXILIARY DRIVES FOR VEHICLES; INSTRUMENTATION OR DASHBOARDS FOR VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENTS IN CONNECTION WITH COOLING, AIR INTAKE, GAS EXHAUST OR FUEL SUPPLY OF PROPULSION UNITS IN VEHICLES
    • B60K2370/00Details of arrangements or adaptations of instruments specially adapted for vehicles, not covered by groups B60K35/00, B60K37/00
    • B60K2370/18Information management
    • B60K2370/186Displaying Information according to relevancy
    • B60K2370/1868Displaying Information according to relevancy according to driving situations
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60KARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PROPULSION UNITS OR OF TRANSMISSIONS IN VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PLURAL DIVERSE PRIME-MOVERS IN VEHICLES; AUXILIARY DRIVES FOR VEHICLES; INSTRUMENTATION OR DASHBOARDS FOR VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENTS IN CONNECTION WITH COOLING, AIR INTAKE, GAS EXHAUST OR FUEL SUPPLY OF PROPULSION UNITS IN VEHICLES
    • B60K2370/00Details of arrangements or adaptations of instruments specially adapted for vehicles, not covered by groups B60K35/00, B60K37/00
    • B60K2370/70Arrangements of instruments in the vehicle
    • B60K2370/73Arrangements of instruments in the vehicle with special adaptation to the user or to the vehicle
    • B60K2370/736Arrangements of instruments in the vehicle with special adaptation to the user or to the vehicle the user being the driver

Abstract

A system adapted to be incorporated in a vehicle dashboard (100) is disclosed. The systemincludes at least one instrument board (105; 130) for providing information regarding the operation of the vehicle based on vehicle operative parameters measured and provided by a plurality of measuring units (PU(i)) each one measuring at least one respective vehicle operative parameter. The system further includes a main programmable data processing unit (125) coupled to the measuring units for collecting operative signals indicative of the measured operative parameters. The at least one instrument board includes at least one graphical display unit (105; 130) controlled by the main programmable data processing unit, the graphical display unit being adapted to display graphical images according to video signals generated and provided thereto by the main programmable data processing unit based on the collected operative signals.

Description

DIGITAL VEHICLE DASHBOARD

§ § § § § DESCRIPTION

Background of the invention

Field of the invention

The present invention generally relates to the automotive field. Particularly, according to some aspects thereof, the present invention relates to indicator and instrumentation devices for vehicles, and, even more particularly, to instrument boards for motor-vehicle dashboards. More generally, the present invention proposes an interactive vehicle computer system, providing several functionalities to vehicles' users.

Description of related art Presently, digital computing and information technology, as well as data network connectivity has not yet broadly exploited in the field of automotive for providing to the vehicles' users services.

For example, let the control panels almost every motor vehicle is provided with be considered; these control panels typically include instrumentation and controls generally pertaining to the operation of the vehicle. For instance, a car comprises a dashboard located under its windshield, in front of the driver's and the passenger's seats, on which several items are located, like the steering wheel, the instrument board and the center console. The instrument board, usually located over the steering wheel, contains several gauges, such as a speedometer, a tachometer, an odometer, a fuel gauge, and several indicators, such as a car lights indicator, a direction change light indicator, possibly a gear shift position indicator, a seat belt fastening warning light, a cooling fluid temperature indicator, sometimes an engine malfunction warning light, and so on. The center console is a control-bearing surface, essentially at the center of the dashboard, which usually includes heating and ventilation controls, lighting controls, and car HiFi system controls. Depending on the car model, the dashboard and the items located thereon may vary to a great extent both in terms of appearance and operation.

For example, the dashboards can be made of different materials, such as plastic, wood and chrome, and the various gauges, controls and indicators may be located within the instrument board and the center console in different positions. In addition, the gauges and the indicators may be either analog or digital, and may be enlightened by means of light sources of different type and color. In some of the recent models, the dashboard may include extra items, such as a navigation system (e.g., a GPS navigator) and one or more connectors (e.g., an USB socket) for allowing external devices to be interconnected with devices onboard (e.g., for transferring music files from a removable USB pen drive to a hard disk of the audio equipment).

In view of the above, it is clear that there exists a wide range of possibilities to arrange the layout and the functionality of a vehicle dashboard. As a consequence, although presently a great number of different car models are available on the market, a potential purchaser of a particular car model may desire to have an instrument board arranged in a different way compared with that available for that car model.

However, this is generally not possible, since the layout of a dashboard and the type and position of the items located thereon are decided by the car manufacturer in the car design phase, taking into account several technical constraints, and essentially no customization is possible.

Indeed, the various gauges and indicators located on the instrument board are directed to provide indications regarding a wide range of physical quantities, that may be radically different from each other (e.g., speed value, fuel level, RPMs,...), and that are measured using sensors requiring dedicated electronic/electric/magnetic/mechanical conditioning networks and apparatuses.

For example, many modern speedometers are electronic. A rotation sensor, usually mounted on the rear of the transmission, delivers a series of electronic pulses whose frequency corresponds to the rotational speed of the driveshaft. The sensor is typically a toothed metal disk positioned between a coil and a magnetic field sensor. As the disk turns, the teeth pass between the two, each time producing a pulse in the sensor as they affect the strength of the magnetic field it is measuring. A dedicated processing unit converts the pulses to a digital speed value and visualizes this speed value on an electronically-controlled, analog-style needle or digital indicator located on the instrument board.

A typical fuel gauge is instead driven by means of a float (located in the fuel tank) connected to a variable resistor. When the tank is full, the resistor is set to its low resistance value. As the tank empties, the float drops sliding a moving contact along the resistor, increasing its resistance (the resistor reaches its highest value when the tank is empty). An electronic unit measures the amount of electrical current flowing through the variable resistor, and accordingly drive a fuel indicator.

From the examples mentioned above it is clear that the indicators and the gauges of the dashboard need to be interconnected with a wide range of different apparatuses, trough dedicated interconnection networks. As a consequence, the positions of the various items and gauges of the dashboard cannot be easily changed, having to take into account the routing of the various interconnection networks with the sensor devices.

Also, nowadays there is a variety of portable devices that users exploit for the most different purposes, like mobile phones, smart phones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), MP3 and DVD/DiVX players, satellite (e.g. GPS) navigation systems (e.g., portable), and that are not at present well integrated with the vehicles' instrumentation.

Furthermore, while data network connectivity is at present well diffused in home and office computing, and users are more and more accustomed to exploit online, e.g. Internet services for purposes of, for instance, e-commerce, bookings, reservations, information, entertainment etc., these potentialities are not yet made available, in an efficient, user-friendly, safe way when the user is onboard a vehicle.

Summary of the invention In view of the state of the art outlined in the foregoing, the Applicant has faced the problem of how to take advantage of digital computing technology, as well as data network connectivity, in the automotive field for providing to vehicles' users new and useful services, improving the user experience, increasing the flexibility of vehicles' instrumentations, simplifying the vehicles' manufacturing and safety. In particular, the Applicant has tackled the problem of improving the known solutions for implementing the gauges and indicators of vehicle dashboards.

According to an aspect of the present invention, a system adapted to be incorporated in a vehicle dashboard is proposed. The system includes at least one instrument board for providing information regarding the operation of the vehicle based on vehicle operative parameters measured and provided by a plurality of measuring units each one measuring at least one respective vehicle operative parameter. The system further includes a main programmable data processing unit coupled to the measuring units for collecting operative signals indicative of the measured operative parameters. The at least one instrument board includes at least one graphical display unit controlled by the main programmable data processing unit, the graphical display unit being adapted to display graphical images according to video signals generated and provided thereto by the main programmable data processing unit based on the collected operative signals. A further aspect of the present invention provides for a method for configuring an instrument board incorporated in a vehicle dashboard.

A still further aspect of the present invention provides for a corresponding interactive vehicle computer system.

Brief description of the drawings

The characterizing features of the present invention are set forth in the appended claims. The invention itself, however, as well as further features and advantages thereof will be best understood by reference to the following detailed description, given purely by way of a non-restrictive indication, to be read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings:

Figure 1 illustrates in terms of schematic blocks a vehicle dashboard according to an embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 2 illustrates in terms of functional blocks an exemplary dashboard processing unit that can be included in the dashboard of Figure 1, according to an embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 3 shows a flow chart that comprises some exemplary steps to be performed for configuring the dashboard of Figure 1, according to an embodiment of the present invention;

Figures 4A-4E pictorially illustrate possible scenarios related to the steps of the flow chart of Figure 3 ;

Figure 5 A illustrates a first scenario of application of the proposed solution; Figure 5B shows a flow chart comprising some exemplary steps to be performed in the scenario of application of Figure 5 A;

Figure 6 A illustrates a second scenario of application of the proposed solution; Figure 6B shows a flow chart comprising some exemplary steps to be performed in the scenario of application of Figure 6A;

Figure 7 A illustrates a third scenario of application of the proposed solution, and Figure 7B shows a flow chart comprising some exemplary steps to be performed in the scenario of application of Figure 7A.

Detailed description of some invention embodiments The present invention provides in its general terms an interactive vehicle computer system, adapted to be embedded in a vehicle, e.g. a car, and to provide to vehicles' users one or more of several services.

In particular, according to one aspect thereof, the interactive vehicle computer system of the present invention provides a digital vehicle dashboard. With reference to the drawings, Figure 1 illustrates in terms of schematic blocks a vehicle dashboard 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention.

For example, the dashboard 100 may be the dashboard of a car, located within the cockpit of the car and in particular situated under the windshield (not shown), in front of the driver's and passenger's seat. However, the concepts of the present invention are also applicable to dashboards for other types of vehicles, like trucks, buses, motorcycles, and the like.

The dashboard 100 comprises, inter αliα, an instrument board 105, positioned over a vehicle steering wheel 110, and a central console 115, located essentially in the center of the dashboard 100 (in front of a gear stick 120). The purpose of the instrument board 105 is to provide real-time information regarding the operation of the vehicle, such as its instantaneous speed, the engine's RPMs, the overall and partial distance traveled by the vehicle, the fuel level, the engine cooling fluid temperature and the like.

According to an embodiment of the present invention, the instrument board 105 is a graphical display unit adapted to display to the vehicle's driver, pictorially, i.e. in the form of graphical images, relevant information about the vehicle's operation. For the purpose of the present description, with the term "graphical display unit" it is intended a display device capable of displaying graphical images generated by an electronic, programmable data processing unit; in particular, the graphical display unit acts like a monitor of a computer, e.g. a Personal Computer (PC). For example, the instrument board

105 may be a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitor, preferably a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) monitor, or a plasma monitor.

The instrument board 105 is operatively coupled to an electronic programmable data processing unit 125, forming the data processing hearth of the interactive vehicle computer system; the data processing unit 125 is for example an embedded computer, embedded in and located on board the vehicle, for example behind the dashboard 100 or in any other suitable position. Particularly, the processing unit 125 drives the instrument board 105 and sends thereto video signals, for example through a bus IBB; the instrument board 105 accordingly displays to the vehicle's driver graphical images based on the received drive signals.

Depending on the way the instrument board 105 is implemented, the signals conveyed on the bus IBB may be analog or digital. For example, in case the instrument board 105 is a CRT monitor, the signals sent trough the bus IBB are analog (e.g., a composite video signal). If the instrument board 105 is instead an LCD monitor or a plasma monitor, the signal sent trough the bus IBB may either be analog (e.g., generated using a Video Graphic Array (VGA) interface of the processing unit 125) or digital (e.g., using a Digital Visual Interface (DVI) of the processing unit 125). As will be described in greater detail in the following of the present description, in operation, the instrument board 105 is adapted to display, under the control of the processing unit 125, "virtual gauges", i.e. graphical reproductions of the various gauges and indicators that are usually located on a standard vehicle instrument board available on the market. For this purpose, the processing unit 125 is interfaced with various sensors and measuring instruments located on the vehicle, for receiving and/or deducing therefrom values, indicative of the vehicle's operation, to be visualized on the virtual gauges and indicators displayed on the instrument board 105.

More particularly, the processing unit 125 is connected to a fϊeldbus FB that is in turn interfaced with a plurality of onboard peripheral units PU(i) (i = 1 to n) for receiving data therefrom. For the purpose of the present description, said plurality of peripherals unit PU(i) includes the various sensors, transducers and measuring instruments that are usually included in the equipment of a vehicle, as well as a vehicle Electronic Control Unit (ECU). In particular, each peripheral unit PU(i) comprises both the sensor(s) adapted to sense a particular physical quantity (e.g., the speed of the vehicle, the temperature of the engine's cooling fluid, the fuel level in its tank and so on) and the signal conditioning network coupled with the sensor for determining the value of said sensed quantity (e.g., instrumentation amplifiers, converters, signal processors and the like). For example, recalling the exemplary gauges that have been briefly discussed in the introduction, a peripheral unit PU(i) may represent a digital vehicle's speed sensor device, another one may represent a fuel level sensor device, still another peripheral unit may represent an engine cooling fluid temperature sensor. In the first case, the peripheral unit PU(i) may include a rotation sensor mounted on the driveshaft of the vehicle, plus a dedicated processing unit adapted to convert signals generated by the rotation sensor into a digital speed value. In the second case, the peripheral unit PU(i) may include a variable resistor connected to a float located in the fuel tank, plus an electronic unit adapted to convert the resistance value of the variable resistor into a corresponding digital value indicative of the fuel level. In the third case, the peripheral unit PU(i) may include a thermometer, plus an electronic unit adapted to convert the thermometer measure into a corresponding digital value indicative of the temperature level.

The peripheral units PU(i), overall considered, form an in-vehicle network, that is in communication with the processing unit 125 through the fieldbus FB.

A possible way to implement the fieldbus FB is to exploit the Controller Area

Network (CAN) bus architecture, which is already included in several modern vehicles for allowing the various microcontrollers and electronic devices included in the vehicle to communicate with each other. Nevertheless, other bus architectures/protocols may be adopted.

During the operation of the vehicle, the various peripheral units PU(i) sense the corresponding physical quantities, and make available on the fieldbus FB data representing the values of said sensed quantities. Making reference to the abovementioned examples, said data may include a digital value representing the instantaneous speed of the vehicle, and a digital value representing the fuel level. The processing unit 125 collects said data, processes them, and accordingly drives the instrument board 105 in such a way as to display (and constantly update) said values in a graphical form, as will be described later on.

The flow of data on the bus IBB is essentially unidirectional, from the processing unit 125 to the instrument board 105.

According to an embodiment of the present invention, also the center console 115 is provided with a graphical display unit (hereinafter referred to as display console and identified with the reference numeral 130) adapted to display viewable images. For example, the display console 130 may be a CRT monitor, preferably an LCD monitor, or a plasma monitor, that is located over or under the position of the auto radio (not shown in the figure).

The display console 130 is coupled to the processing unit 125 trough a bus ICB for receiving video signals related to graphics to be displayed; similarly to the instrument board 105, the display console 130 is adapted to display graphical images according to the signals received by the processing unit 125 through the bus ICB.

In other words, according to this embodiment, the display console 130 may be used as a sort of "additional" instrument board, which may be used to display graphical reproductions of those gauges and indicators that are not visualized on the instrument board 105. For example, the display console 130 may be adapted to display those gauges and indicators that are usually located on a vehicle central console available on the market, e.g., the cockpit temperature indicator, the heating and ventilation indicators, and audio equipment indicators. According to an embodiment of the present invention, the display console 130 is also adapted to serve as a command input device, through which the user (vehicle driver and/or passenger) can input commands to be sent to various apparatuses of the vehicle.

For example, the display console 130 may include a touch screen display, which can detect the location of finger touches within its display area. Trough the interaction with "virtual" keys displayed on the display console 130, a user can interact with some of the vehicle equipments, such as the heating and ventilation apparatus (e.g., for setting a desired temperature), the HiFi system (e.g., for regulating the volume) and so on.

According to an embodiment of the present invention, said interaction is mediated by the processing unit 125; in this case, the various equipments with which the vehicle user can interact are treated by the processing unit 125 as peripheral units PU(i). For this purpose, the processing unit 125 is adapted to interpret commands inputted by the vehicle user through the display console 130 and received by means of the bus ICB. For example, in case the vehicle user desires to adjust the internal temperature of the cockpit, he/she has to operate through the display console 130, e.g. touching one or more of the virtual keys displayed thereon. A corresponding command is then sent to the processing unit 125 through the bus ICB; having interpreted such command, the processing unit 125 accordingly drives the heating and ventilation/air conditioning apparatus, which may for example be interfaced with the fϊeldbus FB, or coupled in any other way to the processing unit 125.

The flow of data over the bus ICB is essentially bidirectional, and particularly: video signals used by the display console 130 for displaying graphical images flow from the processing unit 125 to the display console 130; commands that are inputted by the user through the display console 130 and which have to be interpreted by the processing unit 125 for accordingly driving some of the peripheral units PU(i) flow from the display console 130 to the processing unit 125.

According to an embodiment of the present invention, a vehicle user can customize the visual appearance of the instrument board 105, e.g. through the display console 130. For this purpose, the vehicle user may operate the display console 130, touching proper virtual keys displayed thereon, for instructing the processing unit 125 (as previously described). In turn, the processing unit 125 accordingly drives the instrument board 105, changing the visual aspects of the images displayed thereon. Alternatively, as will be described in the following of the present description, the vehicle user may configure the processing unit 125 by directly providing data thereto through a data input 135, like a USB socket located on the dashboard 100 (e.g., on the center console 115).

The possibilities of customizing an instrument board of the type herein disclosed are very ample. Indeed, thanks to the proposed solution, all the peripheral units PU(i) are interfaced with a single, central unit, i.e., the processing unit 125, which is the device that directly interacts with the instrument board 105. In addition, the gauges and indicators of the instrument board 105 are virtual, i.e. they are graphical images generated by an electronic processing unit and displayed on a monitor. As a consequence, all the drawbacks and technical constraints affecting the "real" gauges and indicators of the known instrument boards not longer affect the proposed instrument board 105.

For example, the instrument board 105 can be customized in the following ways.

The colors, the contrast, the brightness, the chromaticity and other visual features of the instrument board 105 may be set according to the preferences of the user. This allows the user to always have the best visibility of the gauges and indicators displayed on the instrument board 105 for any external environmental condition, also taking into account his/her own preferences.

Moreover, the vehicle user may choose the shapes, the dimensions and the positions of the indicators and gauges within the display area of the instrument board 105, as well as which indicators and gauges are to be displayed, and which not. For example, a user may not be interested in the presence of a tachometer on its instrument board, preferring instead to have another indicator, like, e.g., a detailed indicator of the vehicle's consumes.

In this way, it is possible to completely customize the layout of the instrument board 105, so as to obtain an instrument board 105 that totally fulfills the preferences of the user. On this regard, the possibility of displaying each indicator and gauge by means of either an analog-style needle indicator or a digital indicator may also be contemplated. It has to be noted that also the display console 130 may be fully customized in the same way as for the instrument board 105, in terms of visual as well as operative aspects. For example, in case the display console 130 has been implemented using a touch screen technology, an user may decide which controls (e.g., virtual keys) are to be displayed, and which not. Thanks to the above, a full configurability of the traditional vehicle instrument board can be achieved. This, apart from greatly improving the user experience (vehicles' buyers are nowadays already accustomed to personalize their vehicle by selecting the body color, the type and color of the seat tissue, the optional accessories), has a beneficial impact from the viewpoint of the vehicles' manufacturers, because the hardware necessary for the instrumentation board can be essentially standardized, for different vehicles' models; reduction in costs can be foreseen. Also, the offering of different versions of a same vehicle, with different equipments in terms of instrumentation, is made easier. Different users, e.g. drivers, with different driving skills (for example, a practitioner versus an experienced driver), may differently configure the instrumentation panel of their vehicle so as to better suit their needs and preferences.

Using a configurable display console 130 is particularly useful because in this way the user may control several devices through a single input/output interface. This, among other things, improves driving safety, because the driver is not distracted by the need of interacting with several different devices. In order to correctly operate, the proposed system formed by the instrument board

105, the processing unit 125 and the display console 130 needs to be properly configured.

Particularly, the processing unit 125 needs to be suitably interfaced with the instrument board 105, the display console 130 and the peripheral units PU(i); moreover, the processing unit 125 needs to be capable of correctly driving graphical display units and requires to be designed to correctly interpret the various signals received therefrom.

Figure 2 illustrates, in terms of functional blocks, an exemplary processing unit 125 that can be included in the dashboard 100, according to an embodiment of the present invention.

Particularly, the processing unit 125 includes a central processing unit 205, for example one or more microprocessors, adapted to manage the other blocks forming the processing unit 125.

The processing unit 125 further includes a Graphic Processing Unit (GPU) 210 that manages operations for processing graphical images; for example, with a 32Bit Gaming Quality. The GPU drives a graphic interface 215 (for example a VGA interface, or a DVI interface), which accordingly generates video signals/data to be provided to the instrument board 105 and to the display console 130 (through the buses IBB and IBC) for displaying the graphical images elaborated by the GPU 210. A field bus interface 220 is also provided, for allowing the processing unit 125 to interface with the field bus FB (e.g., for discriminating the various peripheral units PU(i) and interpreting the data generated thereby).

In order to be capable of interpreting the commands inputted by the user through the display console 130, the processing unit 125 includes a touch-screen interface 225, which decodes the signals received from the display console 130 trough the bus ICB and accordingly instructs the central unit 205.

A memory unit 230 is further included for storing data, programs, as well as an operative system (e.g., Windows XPe, or other equivalent operative systems, particularly operative systems suitable for embedded devices). Moreover, the memory unit 230 stores a main applicative program (from now on, referred to as "digital dashboard" program) that allows the processing unit 125 to perform all the operations required for managing the visualization and customization of the gauges, indicators and controls displayed on the instrument board 105 and the display console 130.

The processing unit 125 further includes an input interface 235 connected to the data input 135, for loading data coming from the outside. For example, in case the data input 135 is a USB connector, the input interface 235 is a USB interface. Other types of interface are possible, for example a Bluetooth interface, a ZigBee interface, other Near Field Communication (NFC) interfaces. Being provided with graphical generation capabilities, the processing unit 125, the operative system loaded thereinto and the monitors of the instrument board 105 and the display console 130, carry out the role of Graphical User Interface (GUI) between the user and the dashboard 100 of the vehicle. In order to provide an example illustrating how a user can configure the dashboard

100 according to an embodiment of the present invention, reference will be now made to Figure 3; particularly, Figure 3 includes a flow chart 300 that comprises some exemplary steps to be performed for configuring the instrument board 105 and the display console 130. Figure 3 is preferably to be read in combination with Figures 4A-4E, each illustrating a possible scenario related to the action performed on a step of the flow chart 300.

First of all (block 305), the user accesses an editor program that allows him/her to customize the instrument board 105 and the display console 130 of the dashboard 100. For example, as schematically depicted in the scenario illustrated in Figure 4A, said editor program may run on a remote server 400, connected for example to the Internet. Through a host terminal 405, e.g., a PC, a laptop, a smartphone, a PDA, the user accesses said editor program over a network 410, e.g, the Internet. The editor program can be a web application provided by a specific portal that can be accessed through a web browser. For example, said portal may be owned by the supplier of the instrument board 105, the display console 130, the processing unit 125 and/or of the digital dashboard program stored thereinto, by the vehicle's manufacturer, or by a third party offering (for example, under subscription and payment) this kind of services to users. Access to the portal by the user may be restricted to buyers of the instrument board 105, the display console 130, the dashboard processing unit 125 and/or of the digital dashboard program stored thereinto, or to users that subscribe to the services offered by the third party (for example, the access to the portal may require the user's authentication by insertion of a correct username- password provided to the user).

Once the user has accessed the portal, he/she can exploit the editor program for customizing the instrument board 105 and the display console 130 of the dashboard 100 (block 310). As schematically depicted in the scenario illustrated in Figure 4B, the editor program includes a GUI, through which the user can visualize a collection of available items (gauges, indicators, controls and the like) to be displayed on the instrument board 105 and the display console 130. Then, the user is for example allowed to drag the selected items across the area displayed on the screen of the host terminal 405, in such a way to customize the layout of the instrument board 105 and of the display console 130 according to his/her preferences. Moreover, the editor program may consent to modify the shape and the colors of the selected item, as well as the shape and color of the background. Alternatively, the editor program may offer a collection of predefined instrument board and display console "skins", each one including a predetermined set of items in predefined positions and having predefined shape and colors.

Then, as can be seen in the scenario illustrated in Figure 4C, the editor program displays on the screen of the user's host terminal 405 a preview of the instrument board 105 and of the display console 130 that have been generated in the previous step, and shows a simulation in which the items that will be visualized on the instrument board 105 of the display console 130 of his/her vehicle are in operation (block 315).

As shown in the scenario depicted in Figure 4D, when the user is satisfied by the new layout of the instrument board 105 and of the display console 130, the editor program generates a corresponding configuration file, which is downloaded into the memory of the host terminal 405, or directly into a portable storage device 415, like a USB pen drive (block 320), or a user's portable device like a PDA, a smartphone, an MP3 player.

The configuration file is then transferred in the processing unit 125 (block 325) of the vehicle of the user. As can be seen in Figure 4E, the configuration file may be uploaded to the processing unit 125 by connecting the portable storage device 415 (or other user's portable device) to the data input 135 located on the dashboard 100 (for example inserting the USB pen drive into the USB socket), or exploiting a wireless connection (e.g., BlueTooth, ZigBee, other NFC interfaces). In this way, the configuration file is stored in the memory unit 230, for being used by the processing unit

125 through the digital dashboard program to obtain the desired instrument board 105 and display console 130.

The interactive vehicle computer system according to the present invention may, in addition or in alternative to implementing a digital dashboard, be adapted to implement one or more of several other functionalities, including one or more of the following functions.

For example, as already mentioned, the interactive vehicle computer system, e.g. the dashboard 100 may be provided with apparatuses for interfacing the processing unit 125 with mobile devices, such as mobile phones and Personal Digital Assistants (PDA), through a wired or wireless connection (denoted in Figure 1 with the reference 138), for example a Near Field Communication interface like Bluetooth or ZigBee.

The processing unit 125 may also be configured to display the screen of a portable/mobile device (e.g., the user's mobile phone, smartphone, PDA, MP3 player, GPS navigator) interfaced therewith on the instrument board 105, or on the display console 130, and allow the driver to control it by means of controls on the steering wheel 110 or through the display console 130. In this way, the portable/mobile device is "virtualized" and the user may interact therewith simply through the dashboard 100. Advantageously, exploiting the Internet connection capabilities of a mobile communication device (e.g., mobile phone) interfaced with the processing unit 125, it may be possible for the user to access the Internet and surf the web through the display console 130. Particularly, it may be possible to access multimedia contents provider portals, e.g., for listening MP3, and enjoying IP radio using the audio equipment of the vehicle, as well as to display an IPTV or DivX, DVD, FLV clips on the display console 130. Furthermore, through the Internet connection it may be possible to access navigation service portals, for exploiting on demand of all those typical services offered by a GPS navigator. In this case, the maps generated by the navigation service portal may be displayed on the display console 130. The interactive vehicle computer system, particularly the processing unit 125, can be interfaced with a video camera for displaying on the display console 130, on the display console 130, a view from the rear of the vehicle. This function may be automatically activated when the back up gear is inserted (which can be sensed by the processing unit 125 through the fϊeldbus FB). Additionally, the dashboard processing unit 125 could be interfaced with a video camera for taking pictures of the driver to be used for managing videoconference calls or video calls. Moreover, if the the processing unit 125 is interfaced with a mobile communication device like a mobile phone supporting MMS (MultiMedia Messaging), the video camera can be used for photographing the driver and sending a picture thereof to a security centre in case the vehicle has been stolen.

The processing unit 125 could be also connected to the ECU through the fϊeldbus FB. In this way, all the information made available by the ECU, concerning for example the operating conditions of the vehicle, can be displayed on the instrument board 105 and on the display console 130.

Furthermore, in response to a (mechanical or electrical) breakdown indication provided by the ECU, or based on a specific user request, it could be possible to access the vehicle user manual (which may be stored locally in a memory of the processing unit, or, in case the latter is interfaced to a mobile communication device, may reside on a portal of the vehicle's manufacturer accessible through the Internet), with the page corresponding to the sensed breakdown that may be displayed on the instrument board 105 or on the display console 130. In case the breakdown could be directly repaired by the driver (e.g., a fuse or light replacement), the instrument board 105 or the display console 130 may display troubleshooting information, like slide-shows or videos showing how to carry out the repair.

In order to allow the user to always have the best visibility of the gauges and indicators displayed on the instrument board 105 and on the display console 130, the processing unit 125 may be interfaced with the ECU for detecting whether the vehicle lights are turned on or off, and accordingly regulating the brightness and the chromaticity of the instrument board 105 and the display console 130.

As a further improvement, the processing unit 125 may be able to restore the instrument board 105 and the display console 130 to a default configuration in case they have been incorrectly configured.

The interactive vehicle computer system of the present invention may also be capable of receiving and interpreting vocal commands, which the user may impart for carrying out operations, e.g., for browsing Internet pages or commanding an interfaced mobile device (e.g., for making/responding to a phone call). For this purpose, the dashboard processing unit 125 need to be interfaced with a microphone and a pair of speakers. In this way, it would be possible to start a phone call simply pronouncing the name of the desired receiver and launch a specific command directed to the processing unit 125 by pronouncing it. Additionally, the processing unit 125 may be interfaced with a fingerprint reader device, or other biometric sensor, through which recognizing the driver. In this way, if the vehicle is shared by more than one person (e.g., husband, wife, son/daughter), each having selected a different "skin" for the instrument board 105 and the display console 130 (using a different configuration files, all stored in the memory of the processing unit 125) the processing unit 125 may, upon recognition of which driver will drive the vehicle, automatically configure the instrument board 105 and the display console 130 by instructing the digital dashboard program to load the configuration file corresponding to the recognized person.

In the following, in order to better illustrate the potentialities of the proposed solution, three exemplary application scenarios will be presented, in which the vehicle user takes advantage of services provided by the interactive vehicle computer system according to embodiments of the present invention.

Particularly, Figure 5A illustrates a first application scenario 500 wherein a vehicle user 510 realizes that he/she is driving toward a zone of a city that is car- restricted, and so decides to rent a Segway Personal Transporter (hereinafter, referred to as SPT) for reaching that zone. Figure 5A is preferably to be read in combination with Figure 5B, including a flow chart FlO that comprises some exemplary steps to be performed for renting a SPT using the proposed dashboard system.

First of all (block FI l), the vehicle user 510 accesses the Internet, using a mobile communication device (PDA or mobile phone) interfaced with the interactive vehicle computer system embedded in his/her car, particularly with the processing unit 125 as previously described.

Trough the Internet connection, the vehicle user 510 establishes a contact with a server 520 providing STP rental services, for retrieving the location of a SPT rent area 530 near his/her current position, or close to his/her destination (block F12). The location of said SPT rent area 530 is then shown to the vehicle user 510 through a map displayed on the monitor of the display console 130. Additionally, through the Internet connection, the processing unit 125 may establish a contact with a traffic server 540 (e.g., a server providing information regarding the car traffic in the city), in such a way to visualize traffic information on the display console 130 together with the map for aiding the vehicle user 510 to reach the SPT rent area 530.

At this point, the vehicle user 510 confirms, and then pays, his/her reservation (block F 13). The payment may be, for example, carried out in a remote way, and in particular by establishing a contact with a dedicated payment server 545. Additionally, in case the dashboard 100 is provided with a fingerprint reader device, both the reservation and the payment may be confirmed and authenticated in a more secure way using the fingerprint of the vehicle user 510.

Having reached the location of the SPT rent area 530, the vehicle user 510 may plan the route to be followed using the STP for reaching his/her desired destination within the car-restricted area, for example using a GPS navigation service provided by a GPS navigation tool interfaced with the dashboard 100 or provided by a navigation service portal accessed through the Internet connection established by means of the mobile device. Additionally, if the accessed GPS navigation service is also adapted to provide audio instructions illustrating the course to follow, the vehicle user 510 may download an audio file containing said instruction, for example into a portable GPS navigator device or directly into the mobile device that he/she has used for establishing the Internet connection on the car (block F 14). In this way, once he/she has exited the car, and has taken the STP, the vehicle user 510 may take advantage of said audio instructions, simply bringing with himself/herself the mobile device or the portable GPS navigator device into which said audio file has been previously downloaded.

Figure 6A illustrates a second application scenario 600, regarding the interaction of the interactive vehicle computer system with a gas station provided with so-called "smartpumps", i.e., gasoline pumps equipped with apparatuses for data network connectivity. Figure 6A is preferably to be read in combination with Figure 6B, including a flow chart F20 that comprises some exemplary steps to be performed by the vehicle computer system during refueling operations. When the fuel level of the car has fallen below a preset, low level, the instrument board 105 (receiving the indication of this from the fuel level sensor device) informs the vehicle user 510, as previously described (block F21).

Using a GPS navigation service provided by a GPS navigation tool, or provided by a navigation service portal accessed through an Internet connection (e.g., established by means of a mobile communication device interfaced to the processing unit 125), the interactive vehicle computer system locates a gas station 620 near the current position of the vehicle user 510, and visualizes to the vehicle driver a road map displayed on the monitor of the display console 130 (block F22). Additionally, through the Internet connection, the processing unit 125 may establish a contact with a traffic server 630, in such a way to visualize traffic information on the display console 130 together with the map, for aiding the vehicle user 510 to reach the gas station 620, for example in the shortest time/with the shortest trip.

Having reached the location of the gas station 620, the interactive vehicle computer system establishes a contact with a smartpump 640 located in the gas station 640; for example, trough the Internet connection, the interactive vehicle computer system establishes a contact with a smartpump server 650, which is adapted to control the operation of the smartpump 640 (block F23). Particularly, the interactive vehicle computer system is configured to converse with the smartpump server 650, in such a way to share information regarding the available fuel types that can be supplied by the smartpump 640 and the type of fuel that is suitable for the car of the vehicle user 510. The smartpump 640 is accordingly configured, and the appropriate type of fuel is selected in an automatic way (block F24).

At this point, the vehicle user 510 confirms, and then pays (block F25). The payment may be, for example, carried out in a remote way, and in particular by establishing a contact with a dedicated payment server 660. Additionally, in case the dashboard 100 is provided with a fingerprint reader device, the payment may be confirmed and authenticated in a more secure way using the fingerprint of the vehicle user 510.

Figure 7A illustrates a third application scenario 700, regarding how the interactive vehicle computer system may manage a critical and risky situation for the vehicle user 510, such as in case his/her car suffers an accident, e.g. is stuck in a ditch.

Figure 7 A is preferably to be read in combination with Figure 7B, including a flow chart F30 that comprises some exemplary steps to be performed by the vehicle computer system during rescue operations.

The interactive vehicle computer system may be configured for interacting with biometric sensors, adapted to sense and collect biometric data (e.g., body temperature, heart pulsations, blood pressure) of the vehicle user 510, and of the passengers of his/her car. For example, such biometric sensors may be included in the seat belts of the car, and may share data with the interactive vehicle computer system, e.g., through a Bluetooth or a ZigBee interface.

When suffering an accident, and needing aid, e.g. for being rescued, the vehicle user 510 activates the biometric sensor on his/her seat belt, in such a way to sense and collect his/her biometric data (block F31) for obtaining a snapshot of the situation; alternatively, the biometric sensors may activate automatically.

The interactive vehicle computer system then accesses the Internet through a mobile communication device interfaced with the processing unit 125, as previously described. In this way, the interactive vehicle computer system may establish a contact with an emergency server 710, for sending an S. O. S. by alerting rescue and emergency centers (e.g., hospitals, fire stations and police stations). Specifically, the interactive vehicle computer system sends to said rescue and emergency centers data regarding the current location of the vehicle, retrieved using a GPS navigation service provided by a GPS navigation tool, or provided by a navigation service portal accessed through the

Internet (block F32). Alternatively, the S. O. S. may be issued in the form of an SMS

(Short Message Service) or MMS message, or an automatic phone call.

When the emergency services (e.g., an ambulance) arrive at the scene, the interactive vehicle computer system may send thereto the biometric data collected by the biometric sensor, in such a way to facilitate the rescue and medical operations (block F33).

Naturally, in order to satisfy local and specific requirements, a person skilled in the art may apply to the solution described above many modifications and alterations. Particularly, although the present invention has been described with a certain degree of particularity with reference to preferred embodiment(s) thereof, it should be understood that various omissions, substitutions and changes in the form and details as well as other embodiments are possible; moreover, it is expressly intended that specific elements and/or method steps described in connection with any disclosed embodiment of the invention may be incorporated in any other embodiment as a general matter of design choice.

Claims

1. A system adapted to be incorporated in a vehicle dashboard (100), the system including at least one instrument board (105; 130) for providing information regarding the operation of the vehicle based on vehicle operative parameters measured and provided by a plurality of measuring units (PU(i)) each one measuring at least one respective vehicle operative parameter, characterized by comprising a main programmable data processing unit (125) coupled to the measuring units for collecting operative signals indicative of the measured operative parameters, and wherein the at least one instrument board includes at least one graphical display unit (105;
130) controlled by the main programmable data processing unit, the graphical display unit being adapted to display graphical images according to video signals generated and provided thereto by the main programmable data processing unit based on the collected operative signals.
2. The system of claim 1, wherein the at least one graphical display unit is adapted to display graphical items that pictorially reproduce indicators of measured operative parameters values.
3. The system of claim 2, wherein the at least one instrument board is configurable to at least one among: select the graphical items to be displayed on the at least one graphical display unit; set the visual appearance of the graphical items displayed on the at least one graphical display unit, and set the positions of the graphical items on the at least one graphical display unit.
4. The system of claim 3, wherein the at least one graphical display unit includes a display console (130) adapted to serve as a configuration command input device, through which configuration commands can be input to the main programmable data processing unit for configuring the at least one instrument board.
5. The system of claim 4, wherein the display console is further adapted to serve as an operative command input device, through which operative commands can be input to vehicle equipment.
6. The system of any one among the preceding claims, wherein the at least one graphical display unit is an LCD or a plasma monitor, and wherein the video signals comprise VGA signals or DVI signals.
7. The system of any one among claims 4-6, wherein the display console is a touch screen through which commands can be input.
8. The system of any one among claims 2-7, wherein said graphical items pictorially reproduce at least one among: a speedometer, a tachometer, an odometer, a fuel gauge, a car lights indicator, and a cooling fluid temperature indicator.
9. The system of any one among the preceding claims, wherein the main programmable data processing unit is a computer including storing means adapted to store a main computer program and at least one configuration file, the computer generating the video signals based on the collected operative signals according to a selected configuration file when the main computer program is stored in the storing means.
10. The system of claim 9 when depending on claim 3, wherein the at least one instrument board is configurable among a plurality of different editable configurations, each configuration corresponding to a respective configuration file.
11. A method for configuring at least one instrument board incorporated in a vehicle dashboard, said at least one instrument board providing information regarding the operation of the vehicle based on vehicle operative parameters measured and provided by a plurality of measuring units each one measuring at least one respective vehicle operative parameter, said method comprising the steps of: accessing an editor program for editing the visual appearance of the at least one instrument board, the editor program outputting a corresponding configuration file, uploading said configuration file into a main programmable data processing unit, said programmable data processing unit being coupled to the measuring units for collecting operative signals indicative of the measured operative parameters, the at least one instrument board including at least one graphical display unit controlled by the main programmable data processing unit, the graphical display unit being adapted to display graphical images according to video signals generated and provided thereto by the main programmable data processing unit based on the collected operative signals and based on the configuration file.
12. An interactive vehicle computer system adapted to be incorporated into a vehicle and comprising: a main programmable data processing unit (125); at least one graphical display unit (105; 130) controlled by the main programmable data processing unit, the graphical display unit being adapted to display graphical images according to video signals generated and provided thereto by the main programmable data processing unit; a plurality of interfaces for enabling the main programmable data processing unit interface to at least one among:
- measuring units provided in the vehicle for collecting operative signals indicative of vehicle operative parameters measured by the measuring units;
- a user's portable device;
- a satellite navigation system.
13. The interactive vehicle computer system of claim 12, wherein said main programmable data processing unit is operable to display, on the at least one graphical display unit, graphical images adapted to show to the user an indication of the collected operative parameters.
14. The interactive vehicle computer system of claim 12 or 13, wherein said main programmable data processing unit is operable to display, on the at least one graphical display unit: a reproduction of a user/machine input/output interface of the user's portable device or of the satellite navigation system, when the latter are interfaced to the main programmable data processing unit.
15. The interactive vehicle computer system of any of claims 12 to 14, wherein said plurality of interfaces includes one or more among a USB interface, a Bluetooth interface, a ZigBee interface, an NFC interface.
PCT/EP2008/056073 2008-05-16 2008-05-16 Digital vehicle dashboard WO2009138131A1 (en)

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