One of the biggest challenges for the automotive industry is to develop a human-machine interface system (HMI) that that is simple, accessible, non-distractive — and affordable. Consumers demand the safety and infotainment advantages of automotive human-machine interface (HMI) systems but, according to a Frost & Sullivan survey, they do not want to pay a premium for those options.
Setting the standard is the HMI experience people have with their Smartphones, which have set the de-facto standard for how HMI should look and feel. As more consumers demand access to their Smartphone apps while in their cars, an HMI must be designed specifically for in-car use to minimize driver distraction and comply with strict safety standards while maintaining the apps’ capabilities. A number of innovative technologies in the market integrate Smartphones with cars or, more precisely, integrate Smartphone apps within the cars.
With in-car connectivity, the app can be hosted either on the Smartphone or in the cloud. In the near future, apps will be stored in the cloud, so that the users can always access them from any device. The focus, therefore, is on the software controlling the HMI devices. One of the few software companies to specialize in HMI design is Luxoft. For almost a decade, Luxoft has been developing advanced infotainment and HMI software for the leading automakers and Tier 1 suppliers. Four years ago, the company started to develop product platforms that work as solution accelerators, allowing clients to develop their own products and bring them to the market faster, while cutting costs. iviLink provides seamless, in-vehicle Smartphone app integration. Read more about iviLink in the July 2012 issue of Automotive Industries or at www.ivilink.net.
In September 2012, Luxoft Consulting Germany opened a dedicated HMI Research and Development center near Stuttgart, which currently employs a team of 35 experienced engineers with strong expertise in researching, defining, and developing next-generation UI and user experience (UX) for automotive HMI.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Olaf Preissner, Head of Design/Human Factors Lab at Luxoft Consulting Germany, what are some of the reasons for Luxoft’s expansion in Germany with the R&D and delivery center near Stuttgart.
Preissner: Germany is a key market for our R&D and product engineering initiatives. We realized the need for highly interactive, user-friendly automotive HMI solutions that will help our clients succeed in this competitive space. With the addition of the center near Stuttgart, we are now able to offer R&D and design services for automotive HMI across all classes of cars. An additional advantage is the proximity to the top premium car manufacturers in the world, which drive the future trends in high-end automotive infotainment.
AI: What are some of the HMI automotive applications Luxoft is working on that will change the way consumers interact with their cars?
Preissner: Connectivity and Smartphone integration are important developments for the near future. Luxoft’s new automotive connectivity platform, iviLink, enables seamless connectivity between in-vehicle infotainment systems (head units, car radios, and rear seat entertainment equipment) and mobile devices, such as Android and Apple iOS-based smartphones and tablet PCs, including the extremely popular iPhone and iPad. We are also working on new user experiences with gestures to interact with the next generation of infotainment systems in a very intuitive and dynamic way. You can learn more at www.luxoft.com/automotive.
AI: The constant battle between offering high quality HMI features at affordable cost is one most OEMs are struggling with – how does Luxoft help solve this conundrum?
Preissner: We recognize this challenge. Sophisticated HMI has long been the domain of high-end cars and has started to enter the mainstream only recently. The important mission for us is to enable high-quality HMI even for the entry-level vehicles. We develop reusable modules (for both design concepts and runtime requirements) such as augmented navigation, multiple screen support, and UI skins that don’t require the large investments associated with all-custom design and development. Our goal is to offer a selection of technologies that OEMs and Tier 1s can easily integrate into their products while reducing their development costs and time to market.
AI: What are some of the trends in the automotive HMI sector?
Preissner: User experience is a key factor for the next HMI generation. This means input devices that use natural gestures and touch. Touchscreens and touchpads have the ease of use of a haptic device with lower risk of driver distraction. For the output devices, higher resolutions and larger displays will give the designer more styling possibilities and better ways to cluster the information to minimize the driver distraction. The head unit, digital instrument cluster and head-up display will present drivers with information without requiring them to look away from the road. With a situational HMI and personalization, we will cluster all the new features coming from the connectivity world without overloading the driver with information. This will supported by an intelligent workload management system.
AI: What are some of the technological breakthroughs made recently by Luxoft in HMI?
Preissner: We think of HMI as a combination of human factors and technologies. We’re proud of our HMI solutions such as augmented navigation, multiple screen support, and the ability to enhance the in-car experience with two-way app integration. The only available open source automotive connectivity technology in the market is iviLink, which was developed by Luxoft. The important part of that technology is that it allows you to integrate applications on both the car and the smartphone. By exposing the APIs in a secure manner, OEMs and Tier 1s can build a more open and expandable system, one that also allows them to take advantage of cloud connectivity and related applications. At the same time, third-party app developers can work with OEMs to increase creativity and extend functionality. In our HMI concept, we see the car, the mobile device, and the cloud as parts of a single system.
AI: What are some of the platform technologies Luxoft has spearheaded that have changed the way HMI works?
Preissner: In the past, the HMI development platform was focused on native C/C++ and 2D technologies. From a performance perspective, this could also make sense in actual developments. But technologies like HTML 5 will be more important in the future. This technology gives better possibilities for Rapid Prototyping and animations. For the future, we expect more 3D technologies, such as WebGL and OpenGL. Luxoft is developing the frameworks, tools, and processes for 3D technologies with the goal to become one of the best implementations for HMI in the automotive world.
AI: How do you see HMI evolving over the next few years?
Preissner: Automotive HMI will advance rapidly. Some years ago, it was a simple radio with a few additional features. Today the functionality for an infotainment system is advancing, but it is still very application-oriented. In the future, we expect very complex, intelligent systems with a personalized and adaptive HMI that will manage the driver’s information and current situation safely. It will be intuitive to use and be able to handle complex traffic situations without distracting the driver.