To further advance the development of automated driving, technology company Continental has developed a central input device. The Smart Control input device 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 manoeuvres.
“The success of automated vehicles depends on the user’s trust and acceptance. We achieve this with a holistic human-machine interface, which transparently informs users with intuitive interaction concepts and which enables them to control driving manoeuvres. With Smart Control, we have developed a new element for the dialogue between user and vehicle,” says Dr Frank Rabe, head of the Instrumentation & Driver HMI business unit at Continental.
To ensure the safe division of tasks between driver and vehicle in the highly and fully automated driving phases (SAE level 4 and 5), the new input device from Continental performs several key tasks. 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, 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 colour 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 colour. This new development from Continental also significantly contributes to keeping the user’s attention at an optimal level, even during automated driving. This is particularly important in ensuring the safety of the sensitive takeover phase at the end of a period of automated driving. “We call this cooperative automation. The vehicle performs simple driving tasks, such as keeping to the correct lane, completely independently, while the driver gives instructions for complex driving tasks, such as overtaking on the freeway, which the vehicle then performs automatically,” explains Dr Rabe. This means that the driver is always involved in the control loop of the driving task.
Moreover, 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.
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. Currently, the design’s main focus is on functionality and it can be individually modified for specific manufacturers. As well as haptic feedback to confirm driver instructions, the developers also integrated a function that prevents unintentional operation by recognizing whether the driver actually pressed something or simply touched the device accidentally.
The central input element for automated driving is currently being trialled 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.
Continental develops pioneering technologies and services for sustainable and connected mobility of people and their goods. Founded in 1871, the technology company offers safe, efficient, intelligent and affordable solutions for vehicles, machines, traffic and transport. In 2016, Continental generated sales of €40.5 billion and currently employs more than 230,000 people in 56 countries.
Information management in and beyond the vehicle is at the very heart of the Interior division. The product portfolio for different types of vehicles includes: instrument clusters, multifunctional and head-up displays, control units, access control and tire-information systems, radios, infotainment systems, input devices, control panels, climate control units, software, cockpits as well as services and solutions for telematics and Intelligent Transportation Systems. The Interior division employs more than 43,000 people worldwide and generated sales of €8.3 billion in 2016.