Dashboard is a control panel located directly ahead of a vehicle’s driver, displaying instrumentation and controls for the vehicle’s operation. Items located on the dashboard at first included the steering wheel and simple instrumentation to show speed, fuel level and oil pressure. However, the instrument cluster of a modern car or motorcycle may be far more complex and in addition to basics information provided by the speedometer, tachometer, odometer and fuel gauge, may feature gauges and tell-tales such as turn indicators, gearshift position, seat belt warning light, parking-brake-engagement warning light and an engine-malfunction light. There may also be indicators for low fuel, low oil pressure, low tire pressure and faults in the airbag system. Heating and ventilation controls and vents, lighting controls, audio equipment and automotive navigation systems are also mounted on the dashboard.
When the first “horseless carriages” were constructed in the late 19th century, with engines mounted beneath the driver such as the Daimler Stahlradwagen, the simple dashboard was retained to protect occupants from debris thrown up by the cars’ front wheels. However, as car design evolved to position the motor in front of the driver, the dashboard became a panel that protected vehicle occupants from the heat and oil of the engine. With gradually increasing mechanical complexity, this panel formed a convenient location for the placement of gauges and minor controls, and from this evolved the modern instrument panel, although retaining its archaic common name. With the coming of the LED in consumer electronics, some manufacturers used instruments with digital readouts to make their cars appear more up to date, but this has faded from practice. Some cars use a head-up display to project the speed of the car onto the windscreen in imitation of fighter aircraft, but in a far less complex display.