Auto makers soon may build cars with 3-dimensional instrument panels thanks to a new development by Icon Incar GmbH, a supplier of mobile technologies applications, and NVIDIA, a leader in visual computing technologies.

Icon Incar is part of the Iconmobile Group, headquartered in Berlin. Santa Clara, CA-based NVIDIA is the inventor of the graphics processing unit that generates interactive graphics on workstations, personal computers, game consoles and mobile devices.

“This (device) allows us to offer automobile manufacturers the ability to implement the first 3-D dashboard design,” Icon Incar Managing Director Florian Gulden tells Ward’s during a phone interview.

The compact 3-D display is intended for a coming generation of low-cost, small vehicles that will have scaled-down instrument panels, he says. “But it will probably be used first in a premium-brand vehicle.”

Gulden says the technology likely will appear in a German production car in three of four years but declines to reveal which auto makers the companies are in negotiations with.

The digital instrument cluster gives real-time information to drivers. “Our goal is not to overwhelm drivers with information,” he says.

Icon Incar developed the display in Germany in collaboration with NVIDIA’s UI (user interface) composer studio that specializes in human-machine interface design. Icon Incar was responsible for the concept, visual design, graphics coding, integration, testing and final production of the cluster.

“NVIDIA's expertise in advanced 3-D rendering was integral to the development of our dynamic, high-performance digital cluster solution,” Gulden says.

The hardware behind the display also can be used in cell phones, he says. Any vehicle that has a controller-area network system could use the cluster. “As display prices go down, this (3-D cluster) may eliminate analog instruments.”