HMI, where driver safety meets brand differentiation

Driving is a complicated task that requires maximum driver attention. The vehicle is increasingly becoming a hub for information coming from various sources, be it navigation, or entertainment systems or consumer electronics like media players and smartphones. Most in-vehicle functionalities require a substantial amount of information to be presented to the driver which eventually leads …

Driving is a complicated task that requires maximum driver attention. The vehicle is increasingly becoming a hub for information coming from various sources, be it navigation, or entertainment systems or consumer electronics like media players and smartphones. Most in-vehicle functionalities require a substantial amount of information to be presented to the driver which eventually leads to driver distraction. Analysis of driver workload and information management inside the vehicle therefore, is a major challenge.

OEMs’ focus on safety and brand differentiation has increased the dependency on the Human Machine Interface (HMI), which will develop into a key revenue opportunity. The automotive industry is turning to a multi-modal HMI approach where voice control interface, haptic controls and visual interfaces play an equal role in making driving easy and safe, while also acting as a premium signature for differentiation in the market.

OEMs’ focus on safety and brand differentiation has increased the dependency on the Human Machine Interface (HMI), which will develop into a key revenue opportunity.

There is growing consumer demand for in-car use of smartphones and applications. Nomadic devices bring in an ocean of opportunities to pass low-cost infotainment solutions to the mass market segment. Although HMI differentiation is possible in a variety of ways in the mass market, the real need is to efficiently display the information of the nomadic device to the driver. The real challenge lies in controlling the input and output of these functionalities with the in-vehicle HMI. MirrorLink smartphone replication technology and Delphi‘s MyFi connected infotainment system with workload management technologies are key technological advancements. In addition, HTML 5 technology is a major advancement which assures not only hosting applications from smartphones but also presenting information in “automotive grade” – that is, safe for the driver.

Voice control interface has been available in consumer electronics for a long time, but was restricted from entering the automotive domain due to issues like environmental noise and other driving environments. Basic voice interface includes functions like telephony, using media controls with simple software algorithms and command-based voice recognition systems. Advanced voice interface covers functions like destination entry and climate controls, which require predominantly natural speech systems. Currently, the industry is experiencing a shift from command-based to natural speech-based voice recognition. The 2013 Cadillac XTS will be the first car equipped with Cadillac’s CUE, and thus the first car with a natural speech system (with enhanced semantics support).

Steering wheel controls are the most common form of haptic interfaces, found to differing degrees in almost every car segment today. Basic functionalities such as telephony and media controls will always be available on steering wheel buttons. Multifunctional and programmable switches will become more popular, as they offer shortcuts to different functions.

According to Frost & Sullivan data, by 2017, 16 million cars will be equipped with basic voice interface, 6.9 million with advanced voice interface, and 1.2 million with multifunctional knobs.

Driver safety and the reduction of distraction remains the top priority when developing an HMI solution.

Traditionally, haptic interfaces have dominated vehicle HMI. Voice control interface, visual technologies like head-up displays, and touch-enabled as well as bigger central displays have changed the scenario. With the need to prioritise information content and to provide easy-to-use and efficient controls, the concept of multi-modality comes into play where the driver workload is split between different interfaces. Offering redundant controls like steering wheel controls and voice control for the purpose of making telephone calls ensures a fail safe environment.

Driver safety and the reduction of distraction remains the top priority when developing an HMI solution. All HMI options have limitations, so a single HMI option will not be sufficient to access all in-vehicle functionalities. Instead, a multimodal approach is needed, where different HMI options complement each other and play an equal role for operating in-vehicle functionalities in a prioritised and structured way. This will ensure reduced distraction and a safer driving environment.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.

Sarwant Singh is Global Practice Director Automotive & Transportation, Frost & Sullivan. Krishna Jayaraman is a Research Analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

The AutomotiveWorld.com Expert Opinion column is open to automotive industry decision makers and influencers. If you would like to contribute an Expert Opinion piece, please contact editorial@automotiveworld.com

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