Electronic instrument cluster

Electronic instrument cluster

In an automobile, an electronic instrument cluster, digital instrument panel or digital dash for short, is a set of instrumentation, including the speedometer, that is displayed with a digital readout rather than with the traditional analog gauges. Many refer to it simply as a digital speedometer.



Digital instrument cluster from a 1984 Dodge 600.

The first application of an electronic instrument cluster, in a production automobile, was in the 1976 Aston Martin Lagonda. The first American manufacturer application was the 1978 Cadillac Seville with available Cadillac Trip Computer. In the United States they were an option in many motor vehicles manufactured in the 1980s and 1990s, and were standard on some luxury vehicles at times, including some models made by Cadillac, Chrysler and Lincoln. They included not only a speedometer with a digital readout, but also a trip computer that displayed factors like the outdoor temperature, travel direction, fuel economy and distance to empty (DTE). In 1983 Renault 11 Electronic was the first European hatchback to have digital dashboard.[1] Many vehicles made today have an analog speedometer paired with the latter in digital form. In the late 1980s into the early 1990s, General Motors had touch-screen CRTs with features such as date books and hands-free cell phone integration built into cars such as the Oldsmobile Toronado.


Digital speedometers have limitations. For example, while an analog speedometer can theoretically display an infinite number of speeds, digital speedometers generally display speeds in whole numbers.[2][3][4]

Digital dashes were considered to be unpopular during the years when they were widely produced, and were heavily criticized by reviewers in automotive magazines. Some of the criticism they received was as follows:

  • They were hard to see in the strong sunlight or other bright light
  • They took away the sense of continuous acceleration that is provided by an analog speedometer[5].
  • They were expensive to repair in the event of a malfunction

As a result of these issues, digital instrument panels were phased out of vehicles throughout the 1990s, and have been replaced with traditional analog gauges in most vehicles (with notable exceptions from French manufacturers Renault and Citroen), including those from luxury divisions. However, many vehicles are made today with a standard or optional trip computer located independently from the speedometer.

Digital dashes in the 2000s

A digital speedometer on a Citroen C3 . The instruments shows the fuel level and RPM indicator and manual adjuster dimmer.

In the 2000s, digital speedometers have been produced in some hybrid vehicles, including the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic.[6]

Most digital speedometers have had green numbers displayed on a dark green or black background. The current model Honda Civic has an upper digital dashboard with white numbers against a blue screen, digital fuel and temperature gauges. The lower dashboard has an analog tachometer and digital odometer. Head-Up Display have seen applications in several cars, augmenting analog gauges with a digital readout on the windshield glass.

Many modern motorcycles are now equipped with digital speedometers, most often these are sports bikes.

Toyota is using electronic instruments for showing the cars parameters for its Yaris/Vitz model , the car employs a Vacuum fluorescent display to indicate the speed, RPM, fuel level, odometer, etc.

The French manufacturer Citroën, is using digital indicators as speedometer for many models in its range, including the C2, C3, C4 and C6.

LCD Displays

LCD Tachometer and digital speedometer on Lexus LFA.
LCD Tachometer Settings

On high tech vehicles, such as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Lexus LFA, the instrument gauges are shown on LCD displays instead of having a mechanical gauge. The displays could be configured for a wide array of features.

See also

Air core gauge


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