Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Digital instrument clusters and the road to autonomous driving

Guest post by Walter Sullivan, head of Innovation Lab, Silicon Valley, Elektrobit Automotive

Autonomous driving requires new user experience interfaces, always on connectivity, new system architectures and reliable security. In addition to these requirements, the real estate in the car is changing as we move towards autonomous driving, and the traditional display is being replaced by head up displays (HUD), digital instrument clusters, and other screens. The digital cluster is where automakers can blend traditional automotive status displays (such as odometer, speed, etc.) with safety features, entertainment, and navigation, providing a more personalized, safe, comfortable, and enjoyable driving experience.

For autonomous vehicles, the human-machine interface (HMI) will change with the level of autonomy. Until vehicles are fully autonomous, all the traditional functions of the in-car HMI must be covered and driver distraction needs to be minimized. As we progress through piloted drive towards full autonomy, additional functions are taking center stage in the instrument cluster: driver assistance (distance to vehicle in front, speed limit, optimized time to destination/fuel consumption, object detection, etc.).

The digital instrument cluster brings a number of benefits to the driver experience including:
  • Comfort: The more information that a driver has about the route, right before his or her eyes, the more comfortable the drive. Digital clusters that provide map data, not just routing guidance but information on the nearest gas station, traffic, upcoming toll roads, etc., give the most comfort by empowering the driver with the information needed to get to the destination quickly and safely.
  • Safety: Drivers benefit from cars that know what’s on the road ahead. Through electronic horizon-based features, clusters can display “predictive” driver-assistance information that delivers to the driver important messages regarding safety.
  • Entertainment: Consumers are looking for vehicles that allow them to transfer their digital lifestyle seamlessly into the driving experience. The cluster can enable such integration, allowing the driver to control a smartphone using the in-car system, stream music, make phone calls, and more.

As more software and technology enters the car and we move closer to the fully autonomous vehicle, the cluster will continue to be the main platform for HMI. Automakers are challenged to build the most user-friendly, personalized clusters they can, with today’s cars employing advanced visual controls that integrate 3D graphics and animation and even natural language voice control. Drivers will rely more heavily on the cluster to provide them information that ensures their safety and comfort during the ride.

Digital instrument cluster developed using EB technology, as shown in the QNX reference vehicle.

Curious about what this kind of technology looks like? Digital instrument clusters developed using Elektrobit (EB) Automotive software will be displayed at the QNX Software Systems (booth C92) during TU-Automotive Detroit, June 3-4. QNX will feature a demo cluster developed using EB GUIDE that integrates a simulated navigation route with EB street director, plus infotainment and car system data. You can also see EB technology in action in the QNX reference vehicle based on a Jeep Wrangler, in which EB street director and the award-winning EB Assist Electronic Horizon are both integrated in the digital cluster.

Walter Sullivan is head of Elektrobit (EB) Automotive’s newly established Silicon Valley Innovation Lab, responsible for developing and leading the company’s presence in Silicon Valley, as well as building and fostering strategic partnerships around the globe.

Visit Elektrobit here.

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