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Touch screen demand as cars get interactive

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The explosion of touch-enabled screens used in smartphones, tablets and other consumer devices, along with improvements in touch technology, are increasing demand for touch-screen automotive displays used for navigation, entertainment and online services, climate control, energy efficiency tracking and other activities.

According to IHS, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for global automotive touch panel shipments – which includes shipments of factory-installed automotive touch panel systems, as well as aftermarket applications, dealer installations, and service replacements – will average 18% through 2018, with revenues forecast to reach $1,5-billion.

“Analogue resistive touch has dominated automotive touch panels, because the auto industry tends to prefer mature and proven technologies,” says Shoko Oj, senior analyst of touch panel and user interface research for IHS. “Resistive touch is less influenced by noise and is capable of receiving input from gloved hands; however, the explosion in touch-enabled smartphones and other devices is rapidly changing the consumer mindset, which is helping spur demand for better automotive touch screens.

“Touch screens that require lighter touch pressure are rapidly becoming standard technology in many types of vehicles, which is affecting the technological transition from resistive panels to projective-capacitive panels.”

Based on information from the latest “Automotive Touch Panel Technology and Market Forecast Report” from IHS, while projective-capacitive touch (PCT) technology has been a topic of discussion since 2012, adoption is finally expected to begin in 2015 models, which is leading to the rise in touch-panel shipments.

Due to improvements in the consumer interface, most touch panels for 2017 car models will use PCT technology, which is expected to surpass the use of resistive technology in 2017. “Some manufacturers will still opt to use resistive touch screens in their bills of materials, not only to reduce costs, but also to avoid some continuing issues in the PCT display supply chain,” Oi says.

The role of automotive displays is changing.  What was once simply a way to view information from navigation system or car audio systems, has evolved into a human-to- machine interface for devices of inside and outside the vehicle. “This evolution, along with the increased volume and importance of displayed data, is leading to a growing need for touch-panel designs that incorporate irregular or curved shapes, larger sizes and higher resolutions,” Oi says.