In every car you will find some sort of instruments situated in the dashboard. This is commonly referred to as the instrument cluster. Some instrument clusters have a speedometer that is presented digitally rather than in a traditional mechanical gauge.
Instrument clusters are the control system behind of a vehicle's dashboard. All of the power and signals for the rest of the dashboard run through the instrument cluster first. The instrument cluster has the primary function of being the control central for all of the output devices and data sources. With the advancement in technology and amount of the data sources, the control system in an instrument cluster has as specific purpose.
Digital instrument clusters really started to come about in the 80's and the 90's. They were found in a lot of cars, including some of the top models such as the Lincoln and Cadillac. There is a lot offered in digital instrument clusters, including a speedometer, trip displays, temperature, directions and fuel rates. Some vehicles today offer a traditional mechanical speedometer as well as a digital one
Dashboards in the past were much simpler and contained only a speedometer. As time evolved, more and more items were added into the part of the dashboard we now call and instrument cluster. Some of the things that we have added into that cluster include heating controls, ventilation vents, lighting controls and audio accessories..
It is more common today to also find a navigation system that uses GPS and is built into the dashboard. There is a constant give and take between designers of dashboards and the technology people who build things to put into those dashboards. The two must combine to create easy to understand and use displays. This could easily add up to a lot of extra money, but for consumers to buy, they need to keep it cost effective.
Instrument clusters designs are important because the driver of a vehicle needs to be able to quickly read the cluster so they can keep their focus on the road. They have continued to improve over time and they are getting better at packing in all of the technology without it becoming too complex for the driver to understand at a glance.
Another hurdle that car companies must jump over now are the ergonomics of the design of the instrument cluster. More people are demanding that this be considered in the design of the dashboard and consumers are getting it.
There are some gauges that have been left behind in the age of digital display. As they crunch to get everything into the instrument clusters in a way that makes best use of the space and meets all of the criteria of the demanding consumers, designers have decided that gauges such as oil pressure were rarely looked at and could be abandoned, thus freeing up valuable space in the display of the cluster.