A dialog with Frank Uhlig, Head of UX/UI Design at Elektrobit: How can software suppliers create future car user experiences?

August 18, 2020 

The cockpit is gradually transforming from a driving space to a new kind of living space, as consumer expectations continue to shift the traditional focus on hardware technologies for power and control to a greater focus on replicating the human-machine interface of smartphones.

Driven by artificial intelligence and connectivity, the cockpit is gradually transforming from a driving space to a new kind of living space, as consumer expectations continue to shift the traditional focus on hardware technologies for power and control to a greater focus on replicating the human-machine interface of smartphones. From mobile phones to cars, the trend of “software definition” will take the lead in the Intelligent Cockpit.

Headquartered in Germany, Elektrobit offers comprehensive UX/HMI solutions within the context of the automotive software industry. As a leader in automotive software with over 30 years serving the industry, Elektrobit’s software powers over one billion devices in more than 100 million vehicles. It has both witnessed and become deeply involved in the evolution of the cockpit. What will the major trends be for the future of Intelligent Cockpits? What HMI solutions will Elektrobit provide to enhance user experience? As cockpit functionality continues to expand, what new requirements will be placed on the software? With these questions in mind, our reporter interviewed Frank Uhlig, Head of UX/UI Design at Elektrobit.


Smart connectivity to enhance the digital experience

“Vehicles are in the process of transforming into connected IoT devices. Most new vehicles on the market currently offer some form of connectivity, regardless of their market segment or price position. Certain connectivity functions previously reserved for high-end luxury cars are now being introduced among low-end and mid-range models,” said Frank Uhlig, discussing the development of future cockpit technologies.

From the perspective of user needs, end-users look forward to cars becoming increasingly personalized and connected. They hope that the human-machine interfaces used in cars will become as connected, smart, and easy to use as a mobile smartphone. Under this trend, the Intelligent Cockpit of the future will be more connected, personalized, safe, automated, and smart and will offer a wealth of powerful functions. This also means that more smart connectivity technologies will be used in cars, including advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and state-of-the-art augmented reality technologies for head-up displays as well as more HUDs, larger screens, and more HMIs, etc.

Once there is more and more connectivity and display functionality in the cockpit, the key to Intelligent Cockpit design will be enhancing user experience. In Frank Uhlig’s view, user experience will be further enhanced by future artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, such as personal voice assistants, driver gaze detection, in-vehicle medical applications, etc. Voice technologies in particular will be key for the next generation of cockpits. Take the example of Elektrobit, which is currently working in close partnership with Amazon Alexa to integrate natural speech into vehicles. With Amazon Alexa on board, not only can drivers use their natural voice to activate cockpit functions, they can also access Amazon Web Services (AWS) and other third-party digital ecosystems.

Moreover, in order to broaden the digital ecology, another trend in cockpit design is the use of the Android system. The advantage of Android lies in its ability to build a large-scale application ecosystem. By integrating Android Automotive into the in-vehicle infotainment system, developers can easily introduce the Android experience into the vehicle to satisfy users requiring a more tailored in-vehicle experience. For example, both drivers and passengers expect to be able to use the latest and most innovative technologies as well as simple, intuitive software to easily download and install applications, access music libraries, etc. Elektrobit provides a comprehensive offering of products and services to support the integration of Android Automotive in the infotainment system.

On the whole, the car cockpit is currently undergoing a major transformation from a simple driver information center to an in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system, and then to an integrated and connected cockpit. The application of various smart connectivity technologies provides consumers with a smoother, more intuitive and seamlessly integrated user experience, making car connectivity a part of their digital lives.


Software innovation to respond to future trends

With the increasing complexity of cockpit functions, software requires constant innovation. In particular, new technologies such as 5G, AI and automated driving have a major impact on in-vehicle user experience. For example, 5G can enable data streaming services, cloud computing access, real-time maps, OTA software updates and advanced infotainment systems to be implemented one by one; the AI system will detect user preferences and adjust vehicle settings and infotainment functions or applications accordingly, helping to achieve a greater degree of personalization; autonomous driving in the future will need to adapt to a variety of new user scenarios, such as switching from driver control to autonomous driving, etc.

As Frank Uhlig explains, “Faced with these shifting trends, we must radically change the way infotainment software is updated, in order to achieve greater flexibility, while simultaneously reducing iteration times in order to achieve more frequent function updates; we must also closely monitor software responsiveness to ensure that it can more flexibly respond to different driving scenarios on all types of screens, for example when reminding the driver to pay closer attention, when reducing driver distractions or when providing infotainment services while at the same time ensuring safety.”

Cars are becoming high-performance computers on wheels. The introduction of new connectivity functions, ADAS, autonomous driving technologies and AI technologies all require more powerful, durable and flexible computing capabilities. In particular, the E/E architectures of cars have evolved from distributed to centralized computing, and automotive manufacturers need new software to leverage the capabilities of powerful multi-core processors.

Safety is also an important consideration for cockpit performance. This includes not only keeping information secure, but also completing software updates safely and reliably; also involved is monitoring the driver’s state of being via software, in-vehicle cameras, and AI technology as well as avoiding driving distractions to increase driving safety, thereby achieving a “safe user experience”.


EB GUIDE, innovative human-machine interface

Faced with these trends in future Intelligent Cockpits, Elektrobit is ready. In terms of car HMI system development, Elektrobit has extensive experience and continues to enhance the driving experience by providing products and engineering services to support customers in developing the next generation of cockpit user interfaces that are connected, smart and safe. EB GUIDE is the result of Elektrobit’s more than 15 years of experience in UX/HMI software development and has been used to develop the HMI systems in more than 50 million cars on the road worldwide.

As cars become increasingly connected and smart, EB GUIDE’s integrated functionality is gradually expanding, incorporating a complete suite of products that enables car makers, automotive suppliers, and software developers to design, develop, test, and deploy advanced HMIs on any device, including vehicle head units, head-up displays, and instrument clusters. Meanwhile, EB GUIDE is the only HMI development platform on the market that enables advanced graphics, plus voice-, touch screen and gesture-based controls to achieve intuitive 2D or 3D graphical user interfaces. It enables the creation of HMIs which are fully in line with scientific and technological sensibilities and have already been successfully marketed. In the Volkswagen ID. series vehicles and the Sony VISION-S concept car shown at the CES 2020, the slick HMI designs would never have been possible without EB GUIDE support.

For driver assistance and even driverless cars, an HMI created with EB GUIDE will improve driving safety. On the one hand, EB GUIDE provides the augmented reality (AR) software toolkit EB GUIDE arware, which uses car’s GPS and sensors to acquire and identify objects in the car’s environment, calling out these objects to the attention of the driver within the field of view on the head-up display (HUD), such the distance between vehicles, auxiliary lane deviation warning, etc. – all in real time; on the other hand, thanks to EB and MyScript’s most recent cooperation, the handwriting function can be integrated into EB GUIDE using MyScript’s outstanding technologies so that customers can then use this high value-added EB GUIDE an HMI that takes into account driving safety and comfort for drivers and passengers alike.

Frank Uhlig emphasizes: “Elektrobit is at the forefront of the most recent Intelligent Cockpit trends. We are one of the first companies to develop and provide software commercial implementation based on the new adaptive AUTOSAR standard, which can help car makers and automotive suppliers to better develop these advanced features, and we are already providing a broad product portfolio of embedded and connected software for high-performance computing-based vehicle architectures.”


Source: Automobile & Parts (《汽车与配件》)


Software for the automotive industry