Have you ever wondered what driving will be like in the future? How you will use your car if it does not have mechanical controls, buttons or handles? How will the interior look when sophisticated functions are blended into materials? How much will you enjoy the added space and comfort?
In the future, when you approach your car, you’ll admire the sleek lines. No door handles will disrupt the flowing design of the aerodynamic surfaces. The vehicle’s wireless system is alerted by the presence of the digital key on your smartphone and unlocks automatically. The doors could open when sensing your proximity. However, you have chosen a more secure solution and open the door with a personalized swipe. You could have also used a gesture or facial recognition. The silently opened doors invite you and your loved ones into the elegant interior.
Your hands are occupied by groceries and children and you appreciate the open doors. No need to fiddle with keys or buttons. Opening and closing trunks and tailgates is easy with tailgate or bumper sensors that respond to touch, gesture and voice commands.
Sleek lines and designer materials welcome you and your loved ones into a studio-like cabin. You have chosen an interior of natural wood and leather. Others may have preferred the sporty styling of hi-tech plastics and brushed metal. Each time you enter your car you’re mesmerized by the quiet calm. Rather than being prodded by an array of mechanical switches and buttons, smart surfaces patiently await your intent.
Different methods of controlling your vehicle, including intuitive touch controls and autonomous driving, have become popular. Thus, the importance of the steering wheel has diminished, but it still has its place. Often the steering wheel disappears into the dashboard creating more space and comfort for the driver. To accomplish this feat, the steering wheel is carefully engineered to fold and retract when not needed. The thin, 3D IMSE structure provides the space-saving form factor with sophisticated electronic control functions.
Today, you choose to take control and drive with touch. Instead of reaching for a steering wheel, your arm relaxes onto a plush leather rest. You activate touch surfaces, they are similar to your smartphone. With 2.3 billion experienced smartphone users globally, drivers readily adopted driving with touch. Because the vehicle’s sensors have instantly identified you, it has selected your personal settings, profiles and other necessary digital services. When in Active Drive mode, vehicle sensors monitor the driver’s condition in real time and will alert the driver. The vehicle can also shift into Autonomous mode, if fatigue, distraction, or a health issue interferes with the driver’s ability.
You place your smart devices on the center console where they automatically connect with car systems and recharge at the same time. For wireless charging and device pairing, antennas are placed immediately under the cosmetic surface. IMSE technology allows distances less than one millimeter from the target devices improving performance and efficiency. Encapsulated in plastics, these systems are protected from daily use wear, moisture and spills.
When you want to take full control, the steering wheel emerges from the dashboard. All control functions associated with driving are integrated into the steering wheel. Turn signals can be activated directly from the steering wheel’s contact surfaces without moving your hand. Even turn signal indicators are part of styling. Their sizes and shapes complement the vehicle’s design aesthetic. The car’s entertainment system is also directly controlled from the steering wheel rim.
You decide which indicators to see or when. Smart surface illumination and indicators turn automatically on and off. When off, they seamlessly blend into the interior design. They are effortlessly reactivated by touching the surface. You can also use, gesture control, voice control, gaze, or a change in vehicle status.
With smart surfaces, interior personalization can be taken to new levels. Instead of auto manufacturers defining the location of all controls, you can personalize them to your own taste and preferences. For example, you can choose the placement and selection of controls, and how they are activated.
The outer surfaces of the car will also feature functional digital surfaces. Today, bumpers, lattices, tailgate and surfaces contain minimal intelligence, usually in the form of parking sensors and lift gates. Digitally intelligent bumpers and louvers can include functions from sensing to lighting and antennas. When driving, a digital intelligent bumper will notify surrounding vehicles about distances, relative velocity, and direction. Thus groups of vehicles move as choreographed and avoid collisions. Meanwhile, illuminated vehicle badges and emblems highlight brand appeal and contain hidden intelligent functions.
Intelligent vehicle IDs combine occupant information and vehicle digital IDs. The latter use smart surface technology incorporating IMSE, OLEDs, displays and communications. Stamped license plates are replaced with smart surface technology.
Sensor fusion, combining vehicle identifiers with personal wearable technology, simplifies daily activities. Digital vehicle identification combined with personal data enables access to roadways as well as preferred parking at the office or for a scheduled meeting. Merging car sensor data with location data from driver’s wearable technology addresses safety concerns. It is possible to obtain immediate information for medical events and accidents.
In the unlikely case of a collision, sensors and force gauges provide an accurate profile of the event for first responders. Sensors are embedded in the exterior or interior of the vehicle structure and force gauges in seats. The number of vehicle occupants and predictive medical data from the vehicle is combined with real-time vital statistics from occupant wearable technology. Those enable deploying the right resources for the situation. Response is rapid, because vehicles are wirelessly-connected and can autonomously submit data to the rescue operations. The first aid staff can even get a voice connection to the car, in the event of an accident.
TactoTek develops structural electronics where the functional technology is integrated directly into molded plastic and flexible materials. This allows automakers and user interface designers broad freedom to locate functionality directly into more forms and locations than with traditional electronics technology. New smart surfaces will replace the existing decorative solutions inside and outside the car. Interaction with future automobiles is increasingly associated with touch technology. We can use smartphones, gestures, speech, and gaze. Smart surfaces enable technology integration in a wide range of locations and to completely new destinations. Designers can forget about the design and usability compromises they must make with current electronics technology. The intelligent surface itself can be as thin as 2 mm so that the designer can integrate technology that conforms within the surrounding environment.
The future of cars doesn’t sound that bad, does it?