With consumers becoming increasingly comfortable using smartphones and tablet PCs, touch screens are now increasingly making their way into their vehicles, too. In fact, the automotive touch panel market is expected to expand from 28 million units shipped in 2013 to 86 million in 2021, according to IHS Inc. (www.ihs.com), the leading global source of critical information and insight.

“Projected capacitive touch technology is commonly found in consumer smartphones and tablets, which consumers have grown very comfortable using,” said Shoko Oi, senior display analyst at IHS Technology. “Although there are concerns about how direct touch operations could affect safety while driving, automotive touch panels are becoming a standard feature in new vehicles coming to market.”

The content shown on automotive displays now comes from a variety of sources, both inside and outside the car. Many of these applications require touch panels, which shift the role of the display from simply revealing information visually to becoming an actual human-machine interface. This shift, along with the increased volume and importance of displayed data, is leading to a growing need for easy-to-see designs that incorporate larger sizes, irregular or curved shapes and higher resolutions.

Automotive touch panels are shifting from resistive-touch to capacitive-touch technology, and capacitive touch screens are forecast to exceed resistive touch-screens in vehicles in 2017, according to the IHS Automotive Touch Panel Market Report. As vehicle models are updated, the resistive touch screens that formerly dominated the automotive industry are quickly being replaced by capacitive touch screens.

“In spite of higher module costs, projected capacitive technology is replacing resistive technology as the mainstream touch solution for automotive monitors,” Oi said. “The latest trends in connected cars and telematics encourage car makers to adopt projected capacitive touch screens, because they provide a similar user experience to smartphone and tablet-PC touch displays.”