The right balance: A glimpse to future car HMIs

October 04, 2018 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
The design of the user interface is subject to broad range of requirements, some of which are contradictory. These days, automotive supplier Continental gave journalists a glimpse into the development of this pivotal point for the user experience.

Contrary requirements determine the design of the user interface: On the one hand the driver should receive as much relevant information as possible, on the other hand he should not be distracted. This is particularly true against the background of the flood of data that pours into the driver of the connected car. It is therefore always important to dynamically adapt the display to the context - a tightrope walk. This is clearly illustrated, for example, by the digitization of the cockpit: instead of mechanical rotary knobs and buttons, context-sensitive menus are used in which the driver selects the desired function on a touch-sensitive display. The problem is that this form of user interface requires multiple visual contacts - first to identify the position of the virtual switch on the display, and then again to verify the respective operation.

In the age of menu-driven function selection, haptic feedback is therefore required when entering control commands on the glass surfaces. Continental's developers use innovative materials with morphing properties, among other things, for this purpose. As few keys as necessary should make as many functions as easy to operate as possible. To achieve this goal, Continental combines a visual appearance with a novel operating concept in a three-dimensionally shaped touch display: The operating elements provide haptic feedback. With virtual keys, the display is pushed forward by a fraction of a millimeter when the key is pressed, giving the driver the impression of a haptic mechanical click. Continental has also applied this approach to virtual rotary switches and knurled wheels: Although the display is purely virtual, the driver gets the impression of a rotary switch with locking positions when turning and pushing the corresponding knobs.

Haptic feedback on virtual control elements 
help drivers to use them more intuitively

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