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Elektrobit on creating ‘user centred’ HMIs for automotive infotainment systems

“For a car maker it is important to avoid fragmentation within his own HMI development so that it is possible for him to build brand variants, regional variants, high-end and entry variants and to facilitate evolution of the HMIs.” – Christian Reinhard, Director(HMI), Elektrobit Automotive GmbH

If you go and ask a vehicle chief engineer about the most complex aspect for delighting the customer, the answer is likely to be Human Machine Interface (HMI). An intuitive HMI for in-vehicle telematics systems is not only important to consumers making purchasing decisions, but also to manufactures searching for safety and reliable functionality. Car manufacturers are using the screen as a branding tool. This enhances the driver’s experience and engagement with the vehicle. It is important when thinking of HMI development to allow flexibility for brands as well as usability for the driver’s safety and reducing any distraction while driving.

While a majority of in-car HMIs rely on touchscreens and  manual controls, OEMs are now exploring multipurpose and interactive interfaces combining voice and gesture with touch and other tactile controls. But the question remains as to how can technology providers design an HMI which is both flexible as well as user-centric? Who all are the stakeholders? What is at stake?

Christian_Reinhard_Telematics_Wire_Elektrobit_HMI
Christian Reinhard

In search of some similar questions, Telematics Wire interviewed Christian Reinhard, Director(HMI), Elektrobit-a Finnish tech-titan providing embedded software and hardware solutions for automotive and wireless industry. Christian is head of the HMI department at EB since 2012. This department develops high-quality graphical, haptic and voice controlled HMIs. The focus lies on the implementation of the HMI in software.  Before joining the HMI department he was entrusted with the development of navigation systems for the automotive and consumer market in various positions at EB since 2001. Christian  holds a Master in Computer Science of the Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen-Nuremberg.

Here is what we have had from him… 🙂

While most automotive HMIs rely on touchscreens and physical controls, OEMs are now exploring multimodal interfaces combining voice and gesture with touch and other tactile controls. – See more at: http://analysis.telematicsupdate.com/infotainment/viewpoint-hmi-design-complex-connected-vehicle#sthash.AnyuxiAo.dpuf
While most automotive HMIs rely on touchscreens and physical controls, OEMs are now exploring multimodal interfaces combining voice and gesture with touch and other tactile controls. – See more at: http://analysis.telematicsupdate.com/infotainment/viewpoint-hmi-design-complex-connected-vehicle#sthash.AnyuxiAo.dpuf

According to you, what are the different strategies that solution providers must adopt while designing the HMI for cars?

On the one hand solution providers need to be able to cover the complete development process for the HMI. User centered analysis of the requirements, creation of specifications, iterative refinement of specifications with the help of usability testing, implementation and validation. On the other hand it is extremely important to have tool support for HMI features that are common today. Those include speech dialog, animated 3D scenes, support of remote HMI and concepts dynamically extending the HMIs for new functionality.

On top of that it is especially helpful for HMI development to be prepared for changes that come late in the development process and to have the knowledge how to support a car maker´s platform strategy by managing regional and brand variants.

Do you think that the recent developments in the mobile consumer electronics industry have shown profound effects on the HMI design?

Users want a lot of concepts in their car HMIs that they know from their mobile devices. Among others these concepts include touch gestures, animations for nearly every interaction with the system, natural language understanding and display of data that is available online.

Elektrobit has worked with several car OEMs in the past years. Is this true to say a novel HMI would be a distinguishing factor amongst automotive giants?

HMI is absolutely a brand differentiator. Today´s cars have big screens at very exposed positions. The content of these displays is as important as other parts of the interior and does have big influence on the perception of the user for the overall quality of the car. Users need the HMI to use everyday functions of the car like media, navigation and phone but also innovative functions need to be represented in the HMI like load management for electronic vehicles. Drivers will love vehicles in which it is safe, easy and fun to use the HMI functions.

Do you feel the need of adopting any global standard for HMI design in order to overcome fragmentation?

Today car makers do not follow a global HMI design standard. For a car maker it is important to avoid fragmentation within his own HMI development so that it is possible for him to build brand variants, regional variants, high-end and entry variants and to facilitate evolution of the HMIs. This is achieved by OEM specific interfaces that separate HMIs from application logic. Therefore I do not see an urgent need to adapt a global standard for HMI design which would unify HMIs of all car makers.

Do the content providers and app developers participate in the overall HMI development process? If yes, what are their major concerns?

 I do not see big involvement of content providers and app development in the overall HMI development process.

You can see two different concepts of app integration today: The remote HMI concept where app developers need to link against car maker specific libraries in order to display them on the in-car screen. And the projection concept where the complete screen of the mobile device is mirrored to the in-car screen.

In case of remote HMIs app developers must reuse usability concepts and widgets that are available in the particular cars. These usability concepts are defined by the car maker.

In case of projection concepts, however, the app developers have full control over the representation of their app on the in-car screen. Some car makers and legal authorities are concerned that this might increase driver distractions if the HMI of individual apps is not properly designed.

When might we see the ubiquitous availability of situation-aware HMIs in majority of the cars?

 In today´s cars there are only two situations that the HMI needs to be aware of: the car is in motion and the car is not in motion. Making the HMI aware of more situations will increase complexity and development cost so that it only makes sense if it brings a real extra value. In cars that are able to drive autonomously or semi-autonomously a real situation aware HMI can bring this extra value and therefore I believe that situation aware HMIs are closely linked to autonomous driving. The HMI needs to be aware of whether the driver needs to fully concentrate on the road or, even more important, the HMI might need to make the driver aware that he must bring his full attention back to the road.  

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[whohit]Elektrobit on creating ‘user centred’ HMIs for automotive infotainment systems [/whohit]

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