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The IVI revolution has begun

Next generation IVI looks to support new in-car experiences, providing manufacturers with a crucial differentiator in a competitive market.

When it comes to buying a car consumers are increasingly less likely to simply focus on the look or driving characteristics of the vehicle, instead a growing number are taking into account issues concerning connectivity and the ability of the vehicle to provide seamless integration of mobile devices.

They also have an interest in simpler and more convenient operations through touch concepts, or using voice or gesture control, as well as with various customisation options concerning light, audio and seat settings.

Changes to vehicle interiors are continuing apace as the industry moves towards autonomous driving and this trend is seeing merging IVI (in-vehicle infotainment) and ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) being developed that will not only improve the driving experience but ensure increased safety.

This trend is only set to intensify when the introduction of level 3 and 4 autonomous vehicles turn the actual process of driving a car into a secondary task and this, in turn, will open up a whole new range of possibilities for passenger entertainment.

“The future of automotive transport will be defined by two domains; the driving function and the in-car, passenger experience. As the driving function becomes increasingly autonomous, the passenger experience becomes more important, which is where the in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) revolution begins,” said Enrico Salvatori, Senior Vice President & President, Qualcomm Europe.

“Vehicles will eventually evolve to serve drivers and passengers alike as all-in-one information, communication, travel and entertainment hubs.”

Over the past 20 years IVI has evolved from analogue to digital systems, to touch screens and connectivity, and now to smart, configurable high-definition displays, according to Salvatori and with the advent of 5G and the possibilities of private, low latency high bandwidth network slicing, “an entirely new generation of infotainment functionality, quality, experience and diversity is set to be unlocked.”

“The potential for IVI is enormous,” said Salvatori, ”think configurable clusters, heads-up displays with overlays to identify objects, hazards, and places of interest. And from a passenger perspective, this new connectivity affords enhanced entertainment and a more immersive experience.”

In-vehicle safety

Simple and convenient operation through touch concepts with voice and gesture control are expected to open up a new range of possibilities for passenger entertainment and the drivers of the future can expect to operate in a purely digital cockpit.

However, the safety of the driver when handling these systems is a concern and gesture and proximity sensing are seen as replacing knobs and touch screens for infotainment as well as when it comes to operating the vehicle itself.

Today most gesture-sensing systems are based on time-of-flight (ToF) cameras which can be both costly and complex.

To address this Maxim Integrated has developed a data acquisition system that designers can use to add dynamic hand-gesture controls to vehicles. Featuring integrated optics and a 6x10 infrared (IR) sensor array, the MAX25205 can detect swipe and hand-rotation gestures but without the need for ToF cameras.

According to Maxim this gesture solution is able to complement voice commands, especially when the driver finds themselves in a scenario where voice command is not as effective, and will allow many more models to deploy gesture capabilities.

“Although ToF-based systems enable gesture-sensing in a host of luxury models, automakers want to be able to use this feature in higher volume product tiers as well,” said Sachin Garg, associate vice president at MarketsandMarkets. “What designers have needed is a much lower cost alternative to today’s systems in order to make the economics of gesture-sensing controls more feasible.”

Commenting Szu-Kang Hsien, executive business manager Automotive Business Unit, Maxim Integrated, said, “By offering a dynamic gesture control for automotive applications at the low cost, automakers can now avoid the prohibitive costs of time-of-flight camera solutions and offer gesture sensing in more car models.”

The connected age

In a world where self-driving cars are ubiquitous, autonomous vehicles could lead to safer and more intelligent transportation, and, as carriers continue to invest in 5G networks, research into autonomous driving is accelerating.

“Automakers are focused on drivers and also passengers,” explained Salvatori, “and in the same way that mobile phone use has risen, so too has the desire on the part of motorists to use their vehicles in the same way they use their smartphones – whether it’s checking directions, making an online booking or accessing media.

“Soon, consumers will come to expect an in-vehicle experience that acts as an extension of their digital home or office environment, in which, instead of focusing on driving, they can use their time as they please.” According to Salvatori over time consumers will see a combination of media content, vehicle specific and consumer-centric information merging as automakers look to deliver a seamless, passenger-first experience in the car, keeping a careful eye on safety and mitigating driver distraction.

“Vehicles are rapidly evolving from rolling networks of proprietary systems to becoming connected mobile platforms. Automakers are looking to adapt to a platform-based strategy where systems will scale within the vehicle and across vehicle models,” he contended.

Unlocking IVI’s potential

The potential for new, video-based services is a huge, untapped opportunity for the automotive industry. The rise is happening now, at a time when the demand for vehicles designed for ridesharing that need to differentiate services for the rear seat passenger.

“The growing prevalence of high-performance computing platforms in cars and the increasing sizes and numbers of displays in vehicles are driving demand for more real-time and photorealistic 3D experiences, for both improved usability and to enhance the customer experience. To make these experiences a reality, 3D designers and HMI development teams need to create integrated tool-chains that facilitate the experience from the design process, all the way through to implementation,” said Salvatori.

Catering to the connected customer is not a goal that can be achieved in isolation. Automakers are having to work with telecommunication service providers to build data plans that cater for different levels of content access.

New content and data models in which certain services are already included in the cost of the car could be popular in some markets, for example.

“Looking forward, to a world where autonomous vehicles are the new normal, in-car entertainment will play a key role in how automakers are perceived. In the same way automakers have come to collaborate with tech companies, open collaboration with content providers and media companies will provide a huge opportunity to the automakers,” said Salvatori.

“Eventually we will extend in-vehicle entertainment beyond cars to create a digital ecosystem, where consumers can seamlessly connect to music, or a video series, and continue watching from where they left off outside of the vehicle. This interconnected digital ecosystem will enable automakers to provide a personalised experience for consumers.”

As the industry approaches full autonomy, automakers are focused on their in-car entertainment design strategies, to provide an immersive experience for users.

For content providers, media companies and automakers, providing a seamless experience across different vehicle segments, modes of transport and several smart devices are expected to deliver unprecedented new user experiences.

Author
Neil Tyler

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