Operating touchscreens requires some complex hand-eye coordination, which may temporarily distract the driver. To find the desired operating element, select it, and ensure that the intended function has really been triggered, drivers must sometimes divert their attention away from the road for several seconds, and are thus “flying blind” during this time.
With its new active haptic feedback display the automotive supplier Continental now offers an intelligent and state of the art solution to this dilemma. The novelty of it is that this display provides feedback by means of a movement impulse that can be felt through one’s fingers, indicating that the desired operation has been triggered and understood by the system. To be used in vehicles these displays need to fulfill several additional requirements. For example, a finely tuned force recognition (or “force sensing”) ensures that accidental touches can be distinguished from intentional operational commands.
“The active haptic feedback enables us to close the loop between driver, vehicle, and environment,” explains Eelco Spoelder, Head of the Continental business unit Instrumentation and Driver HMI. “The clear advantage is that the driver does not have to change focus or take their eyes off the road, but instead get direct tactile feedback on the touch screen.”
Continental now presents its first complete touch display with haptic feedback as a demonstrator with technology ready for production. It is a touch‑sensitive car-appropriate 8-inch screen (20.3 cm) with an inbuilt haptic actuator system.
The actuators are basically made up of an electromagnetic spool with two windings. In certain operating situations, they trigger mechanical feedback that can be clearly felt by the user, whilst at the same time helping to measure the force exerted. They are fitted behind the construction elements of the touch display, and are thus located under the screen’s bonded layers (protective glass, capacitive sensor, display). The conditions for use in vehicles and the basic principle of active haptic feedback require an especially rigid structure of the individual construction elements. The solution presented here can be scaled to larger display sizes depending on vehicle manufacturers´ requirements. An application of the haptic feedback for display sizes of 12.3 inches seems technically possible at present.
The tactile feedback from the display is not visible to the naked eye as a mechanical movement. In fact, the “deflection” is only around a tenth of a millimeter. But as this takes place with very high acceleration, the mechanical impulse generated can be clearly felt by a finger. The feedback always takes place on the entire display area. The characteristics and intensity of the haptic feedback can be freely configured, so that it could be adapted to the brand-specific haptic standards of OEMs. They could also be adapted to a particular driving situation as well as operating situation.
The operating concept developed by Continental for its haptic feedback display was specifically designed to allow for tactile feedback. It includes haptic search, an aspect that is important for the reduction of driver distraction. When the driver runs a finger over the display, the haptic feedback provides information about the limitations of operating elements. Among other things this kind of “felt support” allows the user to distinguish between several virtual buttons without having to look at the display.
The haptic feedback display therefore combines the aims of greater operating safety while driving with much greater user-friendliness by allowing largely “blind” operation. Users receive active haptic feedback in precisely those operating situations in which they expect it.
Continental is already presenting the positive effect of this innovative operating technology today; the haptic feedback display is due to be ready for series production by 2017. The wide variety of functions in modern vehicles places new requirements on operating concepts. Buttons that previously had only one function for operating an infotainment system, for example, have long since given way to interactive selection menus with a substantially larger array of functions. Operating elements and displays adapt their function allocation and selection options to the current context. And of course the popularity of smartphones and tablets has created a trend for touchsurfaces in today’s cars too.
Operating elements with haptic feedback, developed and produced by Continental, are already in widespread use. For example, the Mercedes C-Class has an optional touchpad with this technology which controls the infotainment system. The touchpad, based on several patented Continental technologies, such as the actuator, was presented with the “Special Award for Innovation” as part of the “Daimler Supplier Awards” in 2014.
Continental develops intelligent technologies for transporting people and their goods. As a reliable partner, the international automotive supplier, tire manufacturer, and industrial partner provides sustainable, safe, comfortable, individual, and affordable solutions. In 2014, the corporation generated sales of approximately €34.5 billion with its five divisions, Chassis & Safety, Interior, Powertrain, Tires, and ContiTech. Continental currently employs approximately 200,000 people in 53 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 36,000 people worldwide and generated preliminary sales of approximately €7 billion in 2014.
Photo Caption: The innovative search haptics enable the distinction of virtual keypad areas, without having to look at the display