The Present and Future of Automotive HMI

 In Blog, Indian Market

The previous article on our blog spoke about the insurgence of automotive HMIs in India. In this article, we will be looking at the global automotive HMI scenario.

As our earlier article describes, human machine interfaces are playing a key role to enable distraction free driving. HMIs also impart more security, control and enhanced driver experience. When it comes to HMIs, features like head-up display, gesture controls, smart or functional surfaces and voice assistance come up prominently. While these features have not yet reached their possible potential, and work keeps happening on that front, quite a few other dimensions of HMIs, like steering mounted touch controls and mid-air haptic response features are unfolding. In this article, we will have a dual focus – what has already been achieved and what is yet to unfold as far as automotive HMIs are concerned.

A report by Oliver Wyman, titled Future Automotive Industry Structure, includes ‘Revolution of HMIs’ as one of the seven driving trends in the global auto industry. While connected cars technology, pay-per-use distribution channels etc. are some of the other features in this report, it also describes HMIs as the glue that binds everything together. This is perhaps the best way to describe the possible significant contribution of HMIs in the automotive world; all the other features will be accessed through HMIs. This makes HMI a core necessity to get on board many other features in automobiles.

Automotive field has become quite competitive and features introduced by one car maker are quickly developed and integrated by others. In India, numerous carmakers are introducing a plethora of new features and technologies, which are first in class / segment in many cases. After their introduction, majority of the other carmakers also have introduce similar features to keep up with the market and trend.

It is a common practice to manufacture different variants of same models with different features for different geographies. India is an export hub for many carmakers and models built here are integrated with technologies required by many parts of the world. Hence, technologies like HMI which are seeing rapid growth in the Global Automotive scenario, are also making their way into the Indian market.

What is happening in the global automotive HMI world?

MBUX HMI from Mercedes: MBUX HMI is probably the most successful HMI installed on high-end cars so far. The HMI leverages AI and Machine Learning to automatically select radio stations as per the time of the day based on past user behaviour. This system also allows user to interact with and control different vehicle functions using a touch screen, powered by sophisticated graphics processor units. This HMI is developed fully at the Indian research and development arm of the company.

Volvo: Volve has partnered with Google to develop infotainment system based on Android OS. Volvo has also demonstrated a concept HMI which prioritises useful information as – now, in a while and whenever. Some of this information is displayed on a HUD (Heads-up Display), some on the instrument cluster whereas some on a touchscreen.

Continental: In its pursuit of developing a holistic HMI, Continental has turned the entire vehicle into a digital companion using artificial intelligence and deep machine learning algorithms. The system can understand the users requirements and present the information that users wish. The system also links voice assistant – Alexa to several key vehicle functions. The system is capable of providing customised instructions to the driver based on the driving pattern. Continental already has HMI components like display solutions, Head-Up displays and instrument clusters in its offering. Continental has also developed surround-view display which turns vehicle support columns into see-through displays.

Continental has also done considerable work in the smart materials segment and has developed translucent materials to morph various controls under the look and feel of leather. The controls become visible when the user approaches them and disappear once they are used.

Bosch: Bosch already has haptic displays in its portfolio. Their mySPIN HMI provides a host of features such as in-car office via smartphone integration etc. Connected Horizon is another feature which can sense the surrounding conditions to automatically control vehicle functions. For instance, this application can reduce the sound of music system automatically when it senses that the vehicle is going on a curvy road.

Grupo Antolin: Grupo Antolin has developed lighting system for decorative parts with integrated functions and capacitive switches which are converted into a smart surface. Grupo Antolin has used stone as the sustainable ‘smart’ surface.

Canatu: Making use of Carbon NanoBuds, Canatu has demonstrated a concept steering wheel having intuitive controls inspired from smartphone user experiences.

Some of the companies listed above have their global research and development facilities in India and considerable work on HMIs is being done there. Over the years, India has also emerged as a manufacturing hub and many manufacturers cater to other geographies through their Indian factories. Considering all the above, there is a lot of work also happening in India related to HMIs. To take a look, head to our previous article.

What’s Next?

As we have seen so far in this article, a lot has happened already in the automotive HMI world. But that is not even the tip of the iceberg. Where is this all headed to?

Screens to dominate the HMI world

As it can be seen even now, most of the car manufacturers are heavily invested in touch screens and as per Frost and Sullivan research – Global Connected Car Market Outlook, touchscreens will have a whopping 90% market share by 2022. As per the same research, head-up display will gather a share of 20%.

While touch screens are quite common in the vehicles even today, it is important to note that a major share of those screens is taken up by TFT LCDs. The share of AMOLED displays in automotive world is not even worth a mention as of now. Only high-end cars are equipped with AMOLED displays. As the role of HMIs becomes more prominent in vehicles and the time users spend interacting with them increases, more manufacturers are expected to provide AMOLED displays in their vehicles.

The number of screens per vehicle is also expected to grow fast. Faraday Future, the much talked about USA based EV startup has a total of 11 screens in its latest electric SUV prototype – FF91SUV. These screens are designed to serve a wide range of passenger interests – from providing a home theatre experience to the rear seat passengers, adjusting the seats, providing rear view etc. Among all the displays, the 27” ‘cinema experience’ screen is the largest one.

Voice Controls to follow the suit:

As per the Frost and Sullivan research we mentioned earlier, by 2022, voice controls will be the second most prominent HMI feature in the cars with a market share of 80%. In a press statement from Masa Hasegawa, Principal, global automotive practice at Deloitte, machine learning will evolve to such a level that drivers will not be required to look away from the roads to press a single button and would just have to communicate with the vehicle through voice.

The HMI features on Radar:

Apart from screens, other HMI features that are observed commonly in high-end models are HUDs, voice control, gesture controls and smart surfaces. As per the Frost and Sullivan research, gesture controls will have a modest market share of 5% globally by 2022. Many experts have predicted that gesture controls will become more popular on account of the move towards ‘touch free’ operations. Here are some key HMI technologies that are on radar of different OEMs and Tier1s:

Mid air touch sensation: Touch is probably our most evolved sense. Haptics are finding increasing use in the HMIs to enhance the user experience by providing a touch response. Ultraleap, a leading company working in haptics has come up with a unique technology which uses bursts of ultrasonic sound from multiple speakers to create a sensation of touch, in the mid-air. This technology carries huge potential to create a haptic response for gesture control applications.

Use of Radars for Gesture Control: While high-end cars from luxury car makers like BMW have gesture controls, due to use of cameras, these systems act sluggish. Radars can be used to address this limitation. Google has already demonstrated use of radars to capture gesture controls through its Project Soli and Pixel 4 already makes use of this system. With Google Android systems becoming more and more popular in the vehicles, it is highly anticipated that Google Soli will be introduced in cars to enable gesture controls.

HMIs for Level-4 ADAS applications: As per the data from Frost and Sullivan, there will be around five to seven million ADAS level 4 vehicles on road by 2025. As higher levels of ADAS are implemented on a large number of vehicles, HMIs that can understand the state of mind of driver will play a crucial role in deciding when to take back the control from the driver. Use of cabin facing cameras and iris scanners is increasing to develop this solution.

HMIs for drivers and passengers: Driver and passengers interact very differently with the car. HMIs that can behave differently with driver and the passengers to cater to their need will gain more popularity. Electric Vehicles brand, BYTON has already demonstrated this in one of their models, debuted at CES 2018.

Smart Interior Surfaces: As of now, smart surfaces are being used sparsely and that also only in high-end vehicles. Yangfeng is working towards creating more harmonium smart surfaces which will seamlessly integrate multiple functionalities such as controls, displays, monitors, lighting, heating etc. These surfaces are being designed keeping in mind the requirements of drivers driving semi or fully autonomous vehicles.

AI and Augmented Reality: With the increasing complexity of traffic rules and navigation, a lot can be done to enhance driver’s experience using augmented reality and HUDs. Elektobit has developed a technology that can combine in-car sensors with an advanced HMI platform, to provide the driver with a real-time augmented reality experience via a head-up display (HUD).  These HUDs can inform driver about the changes in speed limits, potential movements of other vehicles and pedestrians on road etc. This platform also makes use of AI powered voice command to provide user a distraction free driving experience.

As the article above highlights, the world of automotive HMI is evolving rapidly. As a trend, features that are made available in the European or American are introduced in India after a delay of a couple of years. It is expected that many of the technologies discussed above will be soon launched for the Indian market. For more information on HMIs in India or the Indian automotive industry, contact me at

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