First, the lifetime expectation for vehicle components is higher than that in portable computing products, and the temperature rating of materials is also more demanding: vehicle components have to withstand more extreme temperatures than a laptop computer does. Second, the standards which limit electro-magnetic interference and susceptibility in vehicles are far more stringent than those in consumer products, and the ForcePad product requires modification in order to comply with automotive EMC standards.
Finally, in a laptop computer the user’s requirement is for a large surface area to support a wide range of gestures and touch types. In a steering wheel implementation, the user’s movement is far more restricted, and the range of gestures and touch actions to be supported is far smaller.
For this reason, Synaptics is in the late stage of developing with industry partners an automotive-specific implementation of touchpad technology with force sensing capability and haptic feedback. Using materials rated for use in vehicles, this EMC-compliant technology will provide the temperature and lifetime ratings required by the automotive industry, and it will carry the quality assurance offered by Synaptics, which is the world’s largest supplier of touchscreen and touchpad controller ICs to the mobile phone and computer industries.
Alongside other user interface innovations being introduced by the automotive industry, such as heads-up displays and large form-factor touchscreen displays, the force-sensing touchpad promises to dramatically re-model the array of user input devices presented to the driver, providing a cleaner and more attractive set of controls which is easier to use, and which better ensures that the driver’s attention stays where it is meant to be – on the road.
About the author:
Sunil Thomas is Senior Director, Automotive at Synaptics
All images: Synaptics