Visual, haptic, smart: Innovative HMI tech at CES
Perhaps one of the most striking presentations at the fair can be seen at the BMW booth: The Bavarian carmaker shows a study of a future car based on its i8 sports vehicle. The i8 Concept Spyder is equipped with an 21 inch wide, 4.3 inch high display panel that visualises anything related to connectivity – mails, telephony (even video telephony, as long as the vehicle is not driving), or internet services as well as real-time navigation. While this display is located at the passenger side, the driver has full visibility of the relevant representations.
The cockpit of BMW’s i8Concept Spyder is dominated by a 21" x 4" display.
This large display screen is complemented by a smaller screen above the steering column that displays all the usual car-related information, plus a head-up display that informs the driver about road, traffic (thanks to V2X communications even cars beyond the direct visibility are depicted), obstacles, road signs and the like. To enter a command, the driver or passenger uses BMW’s AirTouch gesture recognition feature that enables users to interact with the display without the need to touch them: Sensors detect hand movements in the space between the centre console and the inside mirror and translate them into control activities, enabling him to select menu items, accept phone calls or set the volume of the infotainment system. While a gesture recognition feature is already available in BMW’s current 7 high-end series, AirTouch is more advanced, the carmaker says.
Competitor Audi demonstrates the HMI concept for future vehicle generations by means of an interior model. The carmaker has further developed its known MMI user interface in that it is now centring around a large (albeit smaller than BMW’s) AMOLED display with haptic feedback. The system detects gestures familiar from the interaction with smartphones and adapts them to the automotive environment.
Gesture recognition, AMOLED display and Car2X services: Audi`s recipe for the automobilistic future
Audi emphasises the in-car connectivity: The infotainment system, built around the company’s next-gen modular infotainment kit MIB2+, supports smartphone and smartwatch integration as well as the fourth generation of Apple TV. In addition, the carmaker announced to introduce first Car-to-X services within the year 2016. For Europe, Audi plans to introduce traffic sign information and hazard information; in the US, the company will roll out a traffic light service that connects the car through mobile connections to the central computers that control the traffic lights at city level.
Deeper looks into the underlying technology provides automotive supplier ZF Friedrichshafen, after the takeover of its US competitor TRW one of the first-league players in automotive electronics. In its Concept Cockpit, ZF shows three building blocks for future automotive Human Machine Interfaces.
ZF’s multi-functional steering wheel simplifies the takeover phase between automated and manual driving. Thanks to an integrated hands-on/hands-off detection, the vehicle “knows” if the driver is really ready to take over command. I parallel, a LED line provides something like an “optical countdown” to the driver, displaying the time left until he must take over. The push-to-drive button at the wheel allows him to terminate automated driving and switch to manual immediately.
Not as spectacular as Audi’s and BMW’s concept studies, but technologically sound: ZF shows the building blocks for future HMIs
The “Swipetronic” panel provides a digital shift-by-wire alternative to automated transmissions. It is based on a touch display at the place where normally the mechanic gear lever is located. Using the principle of electrostatic charging, it enables users to feel and palpate the virtual switches on the screen as if they were conventional electromechanical switches.
Thus, drivers do not need to look down at the screen any longer to select a function but instead can continue to focus on the traffic – a contribution to reduce drivers distraction. The Swipetronic panel corresponds with an electronic circuit that enables customers (carmakers) to customize all functions including transmission ratio by software. While shown as a user interface for a transmission, the Swipetronic can be used to control just about any function in the car cockpit, ZF explains.
Another new development is dedicated to the detection of driver’s attention (or the lack hereof). The company utilises camera-based facial recognition to determine if the driver tends to become sleepy or inattentive. Like a similar system shown by Harman at the CES, the ZF system also detects the viewing direction; algorithms then process the information and assess the driver’s attention, enabling designers of driver assistance systems to develop systems that support the driver with matching actions.