Vehicles with highly automated driving are an important milestone on the road to Vision Zero, the idea of accident-free individual mobility. This increases the aspirations of drivers for the user friendliness of vehicles, for the presentation of information and for digital networking of the information. Occupants are increasingly also wanting to communicate with the outside world supported by unrestricted quality and in the scope they are normally accustomed to.
At the CES 2016, the BMW Group is using the Concept Car BMW i Vision Future Interaction to show what the user interface of the future might look like – including support from high-resolution vehicle displays where the content responds to the situation. In order to make the interaction of the passengers with the vehicle as intuitive as possible, all functions are controlled using touch-sensitive surfaces, gestures and voice.
Interior compartment responds flexibly to the demands of the future
The Vision Car is based on the BMW i8 Concept Spyder. The interior has a thoroughbred, sporty and flexible profile. On the one hand, it supports the driver in manual driving mode with a clearly defined focus. On the other hand, when the vehicle is in its highly automated mode, the interior provides an opportunity to relax in the innovatively designed seats and to make proactive use of the time gained through the expanded content available on the central information display. Just as the vehicle adjusts automatically to drive mode and the surrounding environment, the digital content is optimally presented at any given time. Drivers look at data such as the charge status of the vehicle batteries or the routes offered before commencing the journey on their smart phone, smart watch or Mobility Mirror. These are then automatically transferred to the appropriate menus, map displays and driver information on the panorama display in the BMW i Vision Future Interaction. The transition from mobile device to display in the vehicle takes place seamlessly.
Innovative instruments, panorama displays, 3D views
The BMW i Vision Future Interaction has a Head-Up Display, an instrument cluster with three-dimensional display, and a 21-inch panorama display which extends over almost the entire passenger side.
The driver receives key drive information on the high-resolution Head-Up Display, which reflects the most important data such as speed, speed limits or navigation information within the field of vision on the front windscreen. The instrument cluster is located directly behind the steering wheel and information is shown here in three-dimensional display (autostereoscopically). As well as the usual information about speed, consumption and range, the driver is also provided with information here about vehicles on the road ahead or oncoming vehicles which are not yet in his or her field of vision. The driver is consequently able to respond at an early stage to all conceivable traffic situations. This also applies during highly automated driving. If the driver needs to take over command of the vehicle, the system provides an appropriate alert. The technology acts predictively so that the driver has at least five to seven seconds to respond.
Information prepared to suit the situation
The central panorama display is the most striking interaction element of the BMW i Vision Future Interaction. It extends from the centre console across the entire passenger side and appears to flow harmoniously out of the dashboard panel. The display height of eleven centimetres means that the dashboard panel is not higher than in the BMW i8 and it permits an optimum view to the front of the vehicle. The high-resolution panorama display in the BMW i Vision Future Interaction is almost 40 centimetres wide while the screen diagonal is 21 inches.
When the driver gets into the vehicle, this panorama seamlessly displays the content which is provided by the vision of the Open Mobility Cloud from BMW and it can also be seen automatically using the BMW Connected App on a smart phone or other digital end devices. The display adjusts automatically, in response to the drive mode of the BMW i Vision Future Interaction. In future, for example, the system could switch automatically from pure audio to video transmission during phone conversations, if vehicles are driving in fully automated mode. Drivers and passengers also have the option of unrestricted access to Web content, mails or audiovisual offerings.
While the driver remains active at the steering wheel, information in reduced scope is displayed on the large panorama display in order to minimise distraction and maintain the focus entirely on what is happening on the road.
The number of control elements is reduced to a minimum in the BMW i Vision Future Interaction. The most important of these elements – the drive mode selector switch – is located on the left-hand side of the steering wheel. This is used to select between the three drive modes. The “Pure Drive” mode meets the typical BMW high aspiration for sheer driving pleasure at all times. Assistance systems are used passively here and they only give warning alerts without actually intervening in the control of the vehicle. The “Assist” setting provides optimum networking with the surrounding environment. The best route is calculated in real time and fed into the navigation system. The vehicle supports the driving performance of the driver and intervenes actively if there is danger of an event such as a shunt accident, or if an obstacle on the road appears to be a safety risk. When the vehicle is in “Auto Mode”, the vehicle itself takes over control of sideways and forward orientation, accelerates independently, brakes and steers – without the driver having to intervene at all. In the near future, this could already be permitted on certain approved stretches of road, for examples sections of German motorways or in Car Pool Lanes in the USA.
The BMW i Vision Future Interaction proactively gives drivers an alert if they are in a zone for highly automated driving. The driver can then change the drive mode as appropriate. The steering wheel is illuminated in blue in the highly automated drive mode. The colour scheme therefore provides a visual cue that the driver is in this drive mode. If the vehicle leaves the approved lane for highly automated driving and has to take control of the steering wheel again, a red light signal conveys this requirement. The BMW i Vision Future Interaction is therefore already providing an indication today of what the control functions might look like in the future in highly automated vehicles.
Interaction with AirTouch, sensitive surfaces and voice
The development engineers are using new human-machine interfaces to control and select the content on the large panorama display, and this offers a large number of new options for interaction. One of them is AirTouch, gesture control for all communication, information and entertainment functions in the vehicle. It allows the big screen to be operated like a touchscreen – without actually having to touch it.
Sensors are installed in the area of the dashboard panel which responds to hand movements. A movement of the hand can be used to go to a position on the panorama display and the selected icon is highlighted visually. If the hand is moved forward (push gesture), the icon is activated or the menu displays the next level.
AirTouch has a second option for carrying out this confirm action. An AirTouch switch is located on the steering wheel which briefly illuminates if a menu or icon can be activated. A tap is sufficient to select the desired program in this way or to select a preset. There is also a similar button for the passenger located on the side panel. This enables passengers to use one hand to navigate through the menu and very quickly confirm inputs with the other hand.
The character of the interior changes depending on the drive mode
If the driver changes to highly automated mode, the colour of the steering wheel is not the only thing that changes. When the vehicle takes over control, lots of additional space suddenly becomes available for the people inside. The steering wheel moves forward by several centimetres and this opens up more space. At the same time, the contoured, sculpted sports seat changes its character. Elements in the side upholstery give the seats a lounge profile which enables the driver to turn more to the right in order to look at the panorama display in a more relaxed position. The new freedom of movement is also supported by an extended headrest and the generously dimensioned central armrest.
The objective is to enable drivers to make relaxed and effective use of the freedoms offered by highly automated driving – and when drivers want to take the wheel themselves and enjoy sporty driving fun, the ideal enablers typical of BMW are provided in the ergonomic design of the seat and steering wheel. This extends through to support from vehicle technology which shows information like the ideal line or braking points on a selected stretch of road in the BMW Head-Up Display.