Issue: Oct 2006


Fewer Buttons - More Comfort and Convenience



by James Hilton

Johnson Controls, one of the world's leading suppliers of automotive
interior systems, electronics and batteries, reduces the complexity of
vehicle interiors with its innovative monochrome touch screen display - that
can be intuitively operated. This cost-effective, user-friendly technology
even works without the need for additional foils.



The growing number of car functions and accompanying control elements
mean designers and ergonomic consultants are being confronted with an
increasingly difficult task. While these com­fort, information and
entertainment features are seen as opportunities for adding value and
individual character to vehicle interiors, there is a limited amount of
installation space available within easy reach of the driver and front seat
passenger.



Touch screen displays with built-in information and operating components
may be the answer to this challenge. Yet this technology, which is a familiar
feature of many other application areas, has not made much headway in
automotive interiors so far - with the exception of a few navigation systems.
With an output of over five million displays a year, Johnson Controls is
already one of the leading producers of components for all kinds of driver
information system. The company has now developed a new technology that
enables the use of touch screen displays in automotive interiors.



Cost efficiency by reducing the need for foil



Unlike other touch screens to date, this innovation from Johnson Controls
works without the need for expensive foil layers on the glass display.
Instead, an advanced version of the classic LCD (Liquid Crystal Display)
technology allows a sensor mechanism to be incorporated directly into the
glass. The special layout of the LCD has several sensitive areas where finger
positions can be detected by capacitive effect. Foil-free display screens
also offer other benefits which include being rich in brightness and more
cost effective than other touch screen systems. Not only that - the
integration of information and operating functions into one component reduces
the number of controls required in the cockpit. This cuts down the complexity
and at the same time increases the level of creative freedom that can now be
applied to the interior design.



Air conditioning control panel as prototype



As the first application example of the new technology, which is already
available for monochrome displays, Johnson Controls has developed an
air-conditioning control panel requiring only a very small amount of
installation space. The touch screen of this unit supports all conventional
operating functions and eliminates around 20 mechanical knobs and buttons.
Comprehensive tests and validation trials of the prototype have since
confirmed the efficacy of the technology, even in the thermally demanding
environment of a vehicle interior.



"These new touch screens give automakers the potential to introduce new
information and control systems, even to lower and medium vehicle segments,"
said Thomas Patzelt, Vice President and General Manager Electronics Europe at
Johnson Controls. This also serves the company to reinforce its reputation as
an innovative automotive industry partner, capable of independently
developing and offering its own solutions.The first serial applications of
these new touch screens could be ready by 2009.

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