My current thinking is that I can build the perfect instrument display using a high resolution OLED display. Realistically, I need mid-size display (approx. 7") with a resolution of 1920 × 1080 pixels but, testing so far shows it works pretty well with a display of 1280 × 720 pixels. The plan is to render the whole display in HTML5.
My first attempt can be found here. Because all the graphics are vectors, I've done the initial version at 1280 × 720 pixels, as it is easier to test and develop at this resolution on my laptop. Next step is the animation elements. when displayed on an iPhone 4, the instruments are very readable, so I'm confident a larger OLED display will work really well.
There is deliverately no 3D elements, shadows or highlights. I want minimal complexity, maximum clarity. I may have to move the indicator graphics in a bit, to allow for the curved view through the steering wheel.
One advantage of using a OLED display is that areas of the display can be used for multiple purposes. As an example, the red shift light will be replaced by a hazard warning indicator, when the hazard lights are on. The clock also disappears to reveal a high beam warning light.
The aim is absolute clarity of information and efficiency in conveying it. All elements are white on black, colours are only used to convey status and warnings. Temperatures, pressure and other values are green if in range, change orange as a warning and red when alerting. I'm aware that some people can't distinguish green and red but, this is my car and I can!
I've found that a good way to test the readbaility of the instruments is to view them on a Smartphone. If they are clear enough on a 3-4" screen, then they will be fine of a 7" screen too.
The type of display I have in mind is not readily available on the market yet but, will be by late 2012. Flexible OLED displays were shown by Samsung at CES 2011.