Continental brings high-end HMI to volume segment

August 29, 2011 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
A concept car from tier one Continental AG is crammed with new developments in the segment of Human-Machine Interface (HMI) the company plans to introduce in the volume segment over the next couple of years. The designs include "virtual" car keys implemented in mobile phones and a infrared-based switches which give designers new options.

If it comes to Continental masterminds, the traditional car key fob is about to become an obsolescent model. It will be replaced by NFC-enabled mobile phones; the code data necessary to open the vehicle are stored in the SIM card of the phone. Users simply hold the phone near the lock and the vehicle opens the door. But this is just the basic function of Continental's virtual car key. The company plans to implement internet-based services enabling users to personalize and configure many car functions ranging from the radio station settings to the seat position of each respective user. The communication is two-way: The mobile phone can display information stored in an on-board computer in the car - for instance, the parking position. This makes it possible that the phone leads the user back to the car after a shopping tour or an air trip.

Another innovative technology implemented in the concept car is a detached monitor for the central console. The 7" capacitive touch panel brings user interface concepts hitherto reserved to luxury vehicles to the automotive middle class. In combination with the integrated NFC communications channel. the displays brings applications such as internet browsing, e-mail communications and the like to the cars; the 3G mobile phone serves as broadband modem.

Not only key fobs are doomed to obsolescence but traditional switches and slide controls as well. Continental researchers have developed controls that can be printed on glass surfaces; the movement of the user finger is scanned through an infrared sensor. The technology will open new ways for creative dashboard designs, said Continental. In addition, it saves space in one of the most densely packed areas in the car. Since these printed switches do not require any depth, they enable designers to implement innovative features, Continental said.