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CES 2020 - Delivering better cockpit design

Boréas Technologies, a developer of ultra-low-power haptic technologies, is demonstrating the BOS1211, a low-power high-voltage piezoelectric driver integrated circuit (IC) to enable high-definition (HD) haptic feedback in automotive human machine interfaces (HMIs) at CES in Las Vegas.

The Boréas’ BOS1211 is seen as playing a critical role in satisfying growing demand for clear tactile feedback in automotive environments.

“Haptic feedback is as old as the human experience, which is why we find it so satisfying to know that an object responds to our touch,” said Simon Chaput, founder and CEO, Boréas Technologies. “The advent of the digital world has increased our need for haptic feedback, and that’s why we’re seeing multiple Tier 1 automotive manufacturers replacing buttons and touchpads with haptic-feedback touchscreens as well as top automotive suppliers embedding haptics into their new display products. Our piezo haptic solutions are intended to provide automotive manufacturers and suppliers with: performance, small size, enduring reliability, and unparalleled power efficiency.”

According to Chaput the push for haptics in cars is mostly about safety.

“This is in part being driven by research that shows touchscreens as the most effective input device in many situations, with haptic significantly reducing the glance duration required to operate this type of interface. As such, haptics increases car safety. It’s a big reason why we are working with so many Tier One automotive manufacturers on haptic user interfaces for touchscreens and steering wheels.”

Chaput believes that there has been a significant shift when it comes to conversations about automotive design/performance.

“Ten years ago, that discussion was focused on car performance such as engine power. Today, car commercials are all about technology integration in cars, which is where Boréas comes in: We allow car manufacturers to create better cockpit industrial design while providing a natural and safe user experience to driver and passengers.”

Boréas is partnering with TDK Electronics, a leading supplier of piezoelectric haptic actuators and its IC has been designed to support TDK’s family of 120V PowerHap piezo actuators.

“Touch HMIs in cars are evolving,” said Stefan Benkhof, head of product marketing of the TDK Piezo Business Unit. “From the knobs and buttons of one-hundred years ago to the flat screens that came to market over the last twenty years, clear and responsive haptics marks the next important interface advancement in automobiles.”

“Piezo actuators, in theory, are the most efficient mechanisms for converting electrical to mechanical energy but they require a high-voltage (e.g.60V or 120V),” explained Chaput. “Current solutions are bulky and inefficient. At Boréas, we have created a very efficient driver that is small, low-power and can generate the high voltage required by piezo actuators.”

More than 52.8 million automotive touch panels will be on the market by 2020, according to IHS Markit Center Stack Display Production Forecast.

At the same time, however, more drivers are using voice commands to make phone calls and send texts, and are receiving navigation instructions via audio. Although handsfree HMIs sound safer for drivers, research from Stanford University, concluded that drivers receiving haptic feedback responded better than those receiving audio feedback.

There’s a biological reason for this, in that haptic feedback represents a smaller cognitive load than the audio cues when driving while aurally or verbally distracted.

While research on whether tactile vs. auditory or visual stimuli leads to more distracted driving is on-going, it does suggest that the cognitive load on the human brain is less when that feedback is tactile.

Neil Tyler

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