Digital screens are already appearing in vehicles, but there will be more of them in the future.    Picture: QUICKPIC
Digital screens are already appearing in vehicles, but there will be more of them in the future. Picture: QUICKPIC

Digital mobility strategies, a rising tide of information and the increasingly interconnected and mobile lives of drivers — these all lead to new requirements for the way information is conveyed inside vehicles.

It is an area in which conventional display and operating systems are rapidly reaching their limits, says Continental.

New cockpit designs are needed for automated driving to succeed if drivers wish to be relaxed and entertained in their new environments.

With these requirements in mind, Continental used the recent Frankfurt Motor Show to showcase its vision of the cockpit of the future.

"Numerous innovations in vehicle interiors await us on the path to the automated and fully interconnected future of mobility. Interfaces that can change and seamlessly take on new forms — digital mirrors and large-scale augmentation of the vehicle environment will all be available to drivers in the future," says Frank Rabe, head of Continental’s instrumentation and driver HMI (human machine interaction) business unit.

"In our Cockpit Vision 2025, we are presenting designs that will revolutionise vehicle interiors before very long," he says.

Using a mixed-reality model, an unremarkable clay shape without any instruments transforms into the cockpit of the future thanks to the use of an augmented-reality headset. In addition to the controls and entertainment elements that this reveals, the vision includes brief, animated scenarios illustrating the innovative solutions.

"As soon as users are immersed in our vision, they find out that the cockpit of the future will adapt smoothly and dynamically to the specific driving situation," explains Rabe.

Interfaces

During automated driving, for example, certain controls and displays will remain hidden. They will only become visible and accessible when requested, thanks to the changing, intelligent interfaces. "This creates a completely flexible, all-encompassing cockpit."

The Cockpit Vision includes a wide array of functions for comprehensive human-machine interaction that can adapt the interior to the specific situation. For example, in its mixed-reality demonstrator, the company shows a retractable steering wheel, as well as expanded functions on its screens and augmented-reality head-up displays. Mirror displays replace the traditional exterior mirrors and extend only when required.

With smart control, a special input device is provided for automated driving that assists drivers in the transition to the role of users. The device provides information as to whether the car will drive itself or can be driven on the current stretch of road and is used to control vehicle manoeuvres.

Autonomous vehicles will be able to adapt their interiors on the move.    Picture: QUICKPIC
Autonomous vehicles will be able to adapt their interiors on the move. Picture: QUICKPIC

Additional highlights include morphing interfaces that can reveal or hide displays as required, for example, or a windshield that can be used as a monitor to show information about certain places in the area or to play films.

To make the vision a reality, Continental says it has already developed the necessary hardware, which controls all the vehicle’s input and output devices, plus mobile devices with a single electronic control unit (ECU).

The Integrated Interior Platform (IIP) is an important step toward a comprehensive human-machine interface and links the vehicle cockpit, which acts as a central computer, with the driver and his or her mobile devices, other road users, infrastructure and the cloud. The IIP operates safety-relevant functions such as instrumentation, as well as cloud-based or infotainment functions, using a single piece of hardware.

By merging hitherto separate domains in the cockpit of the future, Continental says it is not only laying the groundwork for a fully updatable interior, but the driver can use functions across all applications, even if these were previously restricted to the instrument cluster or the displays on the centre console. The option to move content means there is nothing standing in the way of personalised cockpits, says the company.

Strategic foresight

To develop Cockpit Vision 2025, Continental says it took an approach of strategic foresight, looking at the development of trends and the future. This involved identifying seven automotive scenarios for the year 2030 that differed in terms of attitudes to vehicle ownership, environmental awareness and price-consciousness within a society, for example.

The next step was for the researchers to determine which scenario was most applicable to each market and to hold workshops in six countries over three continents to generate the most diverse visions possible for the various scenarios.

Panels of experts compared the content obtained by these processes with current trends and forecasts by visionary insiders in the industry and added such contributions as trend and technology analyses, country profiles and information on applicable legislation.

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