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Toshiba's says its new Capricorn image processors help provide high-quality displays in mainstream car segments (Photo: Toshiba)

MUNICH - With the launch of three new graphics processors, Toshiba hopes to increase its share of the growing market for high-quality automotive instrument clusters.

The Japan-based electronics group said the three processors, which are derivatives of its Capricorn range of controllers, feature a high-performance ARM Cortex R4 core running at 300MHz. They have on-board graphics engines and a built-in graphics display controller. And they cost less than previous versions of Capricorn processors.

The three new processors are aimed at the mainstream automotive market, where brands increasingly require high-quality instrument clusters to display growing volumes of data in a user-friendly manner. "There's a flood of information coming at the driver and it has to be managed and displayed correctly," said Klaus Neuenhueskes, senior marketing engineer at Toshiba Europe.

Toshiba's new processors let automakers display information on primary and secondary displays within the instrument cluster as well as on head up displays. "The main areas we are targeting are displays from 3 inches up to 8 inches in the middle of the instrument cluster," Neuenhueskes said at a press briefing here.

Toshiba officials said the automotive market for ever more sophisticated digital instrument clusters is booming, which means automakers and the Tier 1 suppliers building most of the systems need more graphics processors. As a result, volumes have risen and prices have been coming down, which was one of the reasons for Toshiba to develop its new processors.

Volume carmakers are contributing to the growth as they demand higher quality in-car displays and one of Toshiba's new processors, the Capricorn BT0, caters in particular to the requirements of these car segments. "The BT0 is a low-cost controller that provides a 3D feeling," said Neuenhueskes.

Toshiba executives are optimistic that demand for more sophisticated in-car displays will continue to grow. "The auto industry won't stay with 8-inch VGA, but it will follow trends in the mobile and consumer industries," said Neuenhueskes.

The new processors can decode high-compression PNG data "on the fly" and they are equipped with a Toshiba Security Module that encrypts data flows to ward off hacker attacks. Toshiba officials said the first car models to feature graphics powered by the new processors will come in 2015.

Toshiba also announced that it is introducing a 320GB automotive-grade hard disk, the first storage device with such high capacity.

Company officials said automotive data storage demands are rising as navigation information and multimedia files take up more space in in-car systems. Though cloud-based storage is set to grow, cars will continue to require embedded storage  to make sure data are always and instantly available, Toshiba officials said. "You'll use the infotainment system to store movies, for example, because you don't have a permanent connection to the cloud," said Boris Hafner, senior automotive sales manager at Toshiba Europe.

Toshiba's new 320GB hard disk will be installed in a German premium vehicle in 2015.