On the Way to an Intuitive Connected Vehicle: HMI Technology Trends
OEMs may believe they still have time to prepare. But connected cars are already a reality. Consider, for example, that we can now connect a phone to a car and enjoy a remote ignition feature, or unlock a car with an iPhone or an Android Auto app. Through built-in car apps, shipped along with newer models, we can seamlessly plug our phones into the dashboard, use voice dialing and even have our calendar synced up with a navigation system to plan an onward journey.
These conveniences are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of connected vehicles. They are just the beginning of a revolution in consumer demand to transform the entire concept of transportation. Younger generations are no longer interested in speed and design. They want an in-vehicle experience that allows them to stay connected, entertained, and comfortable, all with minimal to no effort on their part.
If car manufacturers are to woo contemporary consumers, they will need to transform the driving experience. They will have to become more than just builders of a physical product and turn cars into devices offering different services to drivers and their passengers.
Enter Human Machine Interface (HMI)
Just what is HMI? It is, simply put, software that allows a human to interact with, control, and get a response from a machine. Anytime you use Alexa, HMI is in play – it is voice activated remote control of sorts.
HMI in the connected vehicle ecosystem promises to transform the driving experience, going far beyond the standard ideas of HMI (e.g., smartphone integration, using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to stream music or make calls) turning the car into a “moving computer.” In this way no additional gadgets are required.
Due to rapid technological advances, HMI in automotive is becoming multi-modal as well. This means that the technology will be able to accommodate all sorts of interactions:
- Touch screen control of a central dashboard display;
- Voice control to get digital readouts of the car’s instrument cluster (speed, outside temperature, road conditions, fuel levels, etc.);
- Gesture control to trigger a head-up display (HUD) on the windshield;
- Haptic feedback, such as a strong vibration in the steering wheel when a driver’s drowsiness is detected.
In short, multi-modal HMI turns the car into a device for information, entertainment, and enables enhanced safety and functional convenience/ease. Built-in AI will ensure that all HMI functions are “behaving” properly. The end result is not the driverless car, which remains only in the future, but rather, a semi-autonomous vehicle experience.
5 Major HMI Technology Trends In Automotive
Tractica, a market intelligence firm that tracks emerging technology, predicts that, by 2025, the market for the vehicle hardware, software, and related services will reach $26.5 billion, compared with only $1.12 billion in 2017.
For car manufacturers and OEMs, there is no going back. They will have to adapt to the new reality of “smarter” driving, powered by innovative tech solutions. Hence, embracing the next market trends in automotive, HMI will be crucial for businesses who want to capture a larger market share.
1. Smartphone Integration Becomes a “Must”
This is no longer a future trend. Smartphone integration is here and available on most late model vehicles. In essence, a driver can seamlessly connect a phone to the car’s infotainment system and access all of its functions via installed apps and connected car software.
For example, Apple CarPlay apps will allow navigation, sending and responding to messages, making phone calls, playing music, and listening to podcasts or audiobooks. Android Auto provides the same features. All of this is tap- or voice-activated, thereby ensuring a safer environment leaving the driver to focus on the road.
There are challenges moving forward, however. Cars tend to be owned for years. Phones tend to be owned for less than two years. The integration of the technology embedded in the car and that of ever-changing phone technology is an R&D issue that should be resolved by OEMs.
One possible solution is to create an OS for the Head Unit. But then, manufacturers will have to develop new car apps or port existing ones into their own system – a costly and time-intensive process.
Keeping the applications embedded in the Head Unit is a far better solution. The Infopulse team recently helped a German Tier 1 automotive supplier create a secure, seamless and non-intrusive integration for Android and iOS smartphones. Check out the complete case study here.
2. Voice Assistants and Voice-Guided Interfaces Come to the Forefront
The average consumer expects it. He is accustomed to asking Siri or Google anything; he may even have a smart speaker in his home. Expecting the same convenience in his car is only natural.
Cars represent a huge market for voice assistants. According to a new survey, 77 million adults in the U.S. alone use voice assistants in their cars at least once a month. What’s even more promising is in-car voice commerce. Per this year’s Digital Drive Report, 64.9% of drivers use a voice assistant provided by the auto manufacturer (if it’s available) to place orders online. And the drivers’ spending through Google Assistant, integrated into digital dashboards, is predicted to grow by 31.9% within the next three years.
In general, voice tech in cars has actually been around a while (IBM placed voice-controlled navigation in Hondas in 2004), but fast-paced HMI application development in this department has been lacking, until now.
Last year at CES, Mercedes-Benz presented a new proprietary voice assistant, now shipped with the A-Class hatchback in Europe and the next-generation CLA and GLA models in the US. Just like Siri, the assistant understands indirect speech and can adjust the temperature when merely told, “Hey Mercedes, I’m too cold” or suggest you take an umbrella when you’re asking about the weather forecast. The company also significantly updated its infotainment system to support more gestures and act as an organic extension of the voice experience. The dashboard displays now offer more comprehensive information, e.g., evaluations on Yelp for various points of interest and their position on the map.
BMW followed suit shortly after and also unveiled their voice recognition system. Being equipped with the latest ML “wits,” the company’s in-car assistant can also recognize unstructured voice commands and respond to various questions including philosophical ones such as, “What is the meaning of life?”. Its unique feature is the level of personalization it offers. By learning about the driver’s favorite settings and preferences, the app can activate a combination of them for better well-being. Saying something like, “Hey BMW, I feel tired” can trigger a vitality program, aimed at helping the driver stay alert by using optimal lighting, music and temperature, among other things.
In general, most manufacturers are now switching to developing proprietary smart assistants to avoid becoming beholden to the likes of Google, Apple, and Amazon. To date, their progress has been a bit slow, but consumer demand will speed things up over the next several years.
3. HMI Safety Functions Get Better
Many late model cars already have built-in braking and parking sensors that provide safety features and prevent accidents. Some also come equipped with even smarter ADAS hardware systems.
But over the next decade, we should also expect to see more software systems built into cars to bring in additional safety functions. Given that 1.3 million people are killed in car accidents every year, auto manufacturers would do well to make safety a key priority, as well as a major selling point.
External airbags, improved emergency braking systems, and automated night vision capabilities are just a few features that have become increasingly commonplace.
But newer technologies are making a major entrance as well such innovations as anti-theft and recognition of driver distraction/drowsiness.
Embedded software, through HMI integration, will be able to offer keyless entry to vehicles, through biometrics such as fingerprint or eye scan. Or allow a remote access to unlock the car with a phone app. In the case of the latter, car cybersecurity has been a major concern. With that said, voice recognition technology can act as an additional layer of security and prevent the intruder from starting the car, for instance.
Car manufacturers are also exploring how vehicles can be integrated with Amazon’s Alexa and connected with other smart devices. In this case, owners can receive additional information about events with their vehicle even when they are not around.
Also, several new technologies have been developed to detect driver drowsiness and distraction and assist with driving.
For example, navigational information can be broken down into several displays to provide turn-by-turn guidance when a driver requires it. Using gaze detection techniques, the data can be displayed exactly where the driver is looking.
When it comes to detecting fatigue and drowsiness, most cars already come equipped with some systems for helping the driver stay alert. The big problem, however, is that most of them are not really effective as they just show a “rest” icon or otherwise try to gently nudge the driver without proactively fixing their behavior. However, if you want to score a 5-star rating in 2020 from NCAP, you will need to install camera-based Driver Monitoring Systems to your models.
Built-in cameras can monitor driver behavior and assess their tiredness by analyzing eye pupils, yawning, the position of the head, and more. Some of these monitoring techniques can also be used for detecting distractions while a speech recognition technology can help detect changes in voice patterns that indicate drowsiness. Other biometrics that register heart rate, for example, can serve as indicators of drowsiness.
Finally, conversational AI embedded in the vehicle can engage in a dialog with a driver whenever tiredness levels build up. Nuance presented how this type of voice-activated computer control can work during CES 2019 demo. Using emotion detection functionality, the integrated assistants in the car can proactively propose different options to the driver (stop for coffee, adjust temperature, etc.) or initiate a transfer of control when it notices that drowsiness, driver distraction or emotional stress is threatening the person’s safety…which leads us to the next trend.
4. Assisted Personalized Driving
We are all familiar with the cruise control feature that has been available on cars for decades. This is perhaps the earliest example of assisted driving. Since then, there has been a gradual implementation of connected car technology, as HMI software development has improved the driving experience.
At the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show, Samsung and Harman International Industries introduced their next and most innovative digital cockpit platform yet – the latest in connectivity, safety, and personalization. Among the features of their new solution are the following:
- The digital cockpit now has six displays, as well as two rear-seat displays. All passengers can now enjoy personalized infotainment features. And the system actually monitors occupants and adjusts things such as screen settings automatically.
- There are three screens in the front digital cockpit that provide information and settings for the driver – speed, fuel gauge, etc. – according to the driver’s needs at the time. Other basics, such as navigation and music, are on the information display.
- There is an additional screen that monitors other functions, such as air conditioning.
- Smartphones can be connected so that all features and apps of that device can be accessed hands-free while driving.
- The dual connection between car and home has also been enhanced. In addition to the ability to control home appliances from the car, now the home can be used to control the car – starting it, warming or cooling it, checking the fuel level, and more.
- Newer safety features that include an enhanced mirror replacement vision system, a front-facing camera (as well as the rear-facing one) that informs the driver of the road conditions ahead, and driver monitoring features, to detect drowsiness and distractions and activate alarms.
5. Connected In-Car Payments
Connected commerce is estimated to be a $230 billion opportunity for brands and OEMs, according to The Digital Drive Report. It’s no longer a question of whether you should consider in-car payment integrations; it’s how you will implement them.
Visa, in collaboration with SiriusXM, has just announced their plan for a vehicle-based payments platform. The solution will become available to any SiriusXM enabled vehicles. Users will get an e-wallet, with identity-verification biometrics, letting them pay for virtually everything from tolls, to coffee, to other billers and creditors while on the go. The best part, Visa is actively pitching this new technology to car manufacturers.
While the use of in-car payments may not seem like a massive convenience at the moment, the future of such HMI services may be expanded beyond paying for parking and takeaways. Suppose, for example, that car insurance providers utilize some options in consideration, such as rates based on actual driver use and behavior. Already, some of them have monitoring devices that can be installed in a vehicle, providing information about driving behavior. They can connect to the in-car payments platforms, and adjust rates even on a monthly basis, according to their use and behavior. The driver can then make payments through the same connected feature.
Additionally, some savvy OEMs are teaming up with brands to create on-dashboard marketplaces for drivers. General Motors, for example, already allows drivers to place orders straight from there for different products and services, including parking, hotels, dinner reservations and more. E-commerce behind the wheel is catching on rapidly.
Find more information on in-car payment use cases and their business value in our dedicated blog article.
What’s Next for Automotive Brands?
The short answer: we don’t know all of the HMI trends and the resulting applications we will see in the near and distant future. With that said, we do know, consumer demand is going to insist upon HMI software development initiatives with embedded HMI as a major focus area.
Car manufacturers may have been riding their brakes on this topic a decade ago, but that is simply no longer the case. If they are going to capture market share, they must make a paradigm shift. That shift will be away from a car’s performance in terms of speed and reliance on physical design features, and instead towards software systems. After all, modern buyers now demand a novel type of driving experience – more efficient, more comfortable, safer, more entertaining, and one that allows a variety of activities and tasks to be done on the go.
There is a myriad of vehicle software development firms out there vying for the attention of auto manufacturers. Each one promising the latest HMI design and development tools, HMI testing tools, and even testing automation.
Any auto manufacturer will need to clearly establish own HMI goals and then take the necessary time to explore the contemporary development options.
Infopulse has extensive experience in automotive HMI software development. We understand the latest industry trends; we customize development according to the HMI requirements of each client, and we deliver secure apps using the latest technologies. Let’s have a conversation and discuss your HMI development needs.