Continental develops a central input device that intuitively configures the change of role of driver in automated driving functions

As more and more automation features get added in the cars, the role of car drivers has become critical as it requires to change very frequently. To tackle this Continental has developed a central input device– the Smart Control input device– that transparently and intuitively configures the change of role from driver to user of automated driving functions. It informs vehicle occupants if automated driving or manual driving is possible and can also be used to control driving maneuvers.

Continental develops a central input device that intuitively configures the change of role of driver in automated driving functions

To ensure the safe division of tasks between driver and vehicle in the conditionally and highly automated driving phases (SAE level 3 and 4), the new input device from Continental performs several key tasks that are discussed below:

  • As an element in the center console of the vehicle, it continuously informs vehicle occupants of the current driving mode using a kinematics function. During manual driving phases, it disappears into the center console so the driver can only use the touchpad on top, to control the infotainment, for example.
  • As soon as the vehicle is on a section of road where automated driving can be engaged, the device comes out of the center console and the driver can activate automation. The device can be operated in a similar way to a joystick supported by variable haptic feedback.
  • By additional color coding, Smart Control provides clarification on the current status of automation. Depending on the driving mode, the input device, together with other elements in the cockpit such as the fully digital instrument cluster, lights up in a specific color. This new development from Continental also significantly contributes to keeping the user’s attention at an optimal level, even during automated driving.
  • The driver can use the input device to switch between different information displays on the digital instrument cluster – from maximum surroundings visualization, which displays all road users in the immediate vicinity, to a drastically reduced view that shows only the sections of road ahead. This function goes a long way to help build up trust in automated driving, by providing the right amount of information transparently and at all times.

The company calls this “cooperative automation”, according to Dr. Frank Rabe, head of the Instrumentation & Driver HMI business unit at Continental, the success of automated vehicles depends on the user’s trust and acceptance, with Smart Control, a holistic human-machine interface, the company has developed a new element for the dialogue between user and vehicle where the driver is always involved in the control loop of the driving task.

When designing the central input element, Continental carried out an ergonomics test to identify the right form and appropriate materials for an ergonomic and high-quality design. The central input element for automated driving is currently being trialed in Continental test vehicles and the driving simulator to further test the concept of cooperative automation and optimize the specification of the device according to user acceptance.

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