There was a time when touch-screen technology played like something out of a sci-fi movie, with scientists tapping at a TV screen to communicate with some sort of artificial intelligence.
Then touch screens became a reality
—albeit an expensive one. Because of this, touch screens haven’t penetrated the automotive market, save for built-in GPS navigation systems in high-end cars. But Johnson Controls is changing that
Engineers at the company have developed a monochrome touch-screen system that doesn’t use expensive foils
on the screen’s glass display. This means that the manufacture of touch screens for automotive applications is cost-efficient. It also means there are more viable opportunities to integrate touch-screen technology into standard vehicles
. That’s good news, since there is a dearth of space within a driver’s reach, but an ever-increasing need to provide more comfort, information and entertainment features within automobiles.
How does it work? Instead of using the typical foil layers that provide the programmable contact points in touch screens, the Johnson Controls solution provides for a sensor mechanism that is built into the glass of a liquid crystal display (LCD). The layout of the LCD has several touch-sensitive areas where finger positions can be detected by capacitive effect. So, the screen can be programmed
—cost-effectively—to accommodate different commands
This opens up the automobile interior to a variety of potential touch-screen applications. And, the advent of the technology allows automobile manufacturers to consider new ergonomic and design options
, since design and engineering won’t be limited by control placement and current dashboard configurations. Additionally, touch screens will save room
by providing a variety of functionality in one device—buttons can access a variety of sub-menu screens, and options are limited only by the amount of programming that is developed. Furthermore, the consumers benefit from intuitive operation and less complexity.
As the first application example of the new technology, which is already available for monochrome displays, Johnson Controls has developed a touch-screen air conditioning control panel
that requires a small amount of installation space, but still manages to house all air conditioning operational functions. That eliminates 20 knobs and buttons, freeing up cabin space.
Best yet, the more cost-effective nature of using a foil-less system means new technology can be made available to more people. “These new touch screens give automakers the potential to introduce new information and control systems—even to lower and medium vehicle segments,” says Thomas Patzelt, vice president and general manager Electronics Europe at Johnson Controls. Patzelt says the first applications of these new touch screens, not aftermarket solutions, could be ready by 2009
. The new touch screen technology is not an aftermarket solution.