Until now, many of the most important automotive innovations have been hidden deep inside the vehicle. New drive trains, emissions control technologies, electronic control units, antilock braking systems, electronic stability control—all operate invisibly, without being seen or physically touched by the driver. Faurecia however, is developing a new set of automotive technologies that focus on the first inch of the vehicle cockpit and center console, placing unprecedented control at the fingertips of drivers and passengers.
Meet First Inch, a demonstrator that shows novel developments in intuitive connectivity, with 3D switchless technology, the seamless incorporation of displays and controls into decoration, highly integrated mobile phone docking and connectivity, and smart-surface touchscreens.
The highlight of the demonstrator is its DecoAlu haptic touch panel. A bow-tie-shaped human-machine interface (HMI) spanning the center stack, this breakthrough control center features switchless technology with actuators that deliver a customizable 3D haptic feedback (vibrations or motions). On the demonstrator, the panel is made of aluminum, but it also could be fashioned from wood and retain the same haptic properties. It is a world-first innovation that operates with piezo switches, which have no moving parts.
Directly above DecoAlu, on either side of the stack, are DecoControl capacitive switches. Positioned as two “wings,” these switchless controls are functional, as well as decorative. They are covered with a capacitive film behind a laser-etched paint surface. By touching the etched images, the driver can adjust the climate control temperatures and the temperature of the seat. Faurecia will increasingly employ this type of “infoskin” for switchless controls in its concepts and products.
At the top of the center stack is the DecoDisplay. This primary display area merges plastics and electronics into a “plastronics” system with a sleek 8-inch black panel (meaning that all you can see is an elegant, matte, black surface when the vehicle ignition is turned off) touchscreen that is covered by a curved transparent decorative surface. The screen is characterized with very high definition, ultra-thin screen.
DecoDisplay uses optical bonding to improve the optics performance and durability of the screen. With this bonding, internal and external reflections are reduced, and the device gains improved resistance to vibration and moisture.
DecoDisplay is just one of several screens incorporated into the First Inch Demonstrator. On the driver’s side of the console is a bridge with a flat screen display. This touch screen interacts with the main display through an on-screen keypad for inputting numbers and touchpad with which the driver can create words to input GPS system directions. Adjacent to this screen are mechanical buttons with backlit icons, integrated into a decorative aluminum surface that also can be made of other materials.
Another screen is situated atop the e-shifter knob. This 1.6-inch black panel display shows the gear shifter position. The same information is displayed immediately behind the knob.
For more connectivity, smartphone and tablet screens can be projected onto the center console’s touch screen to give vehicle occupants instant access to mobile functionalities. Using induction technology, wireless charging stations located in the side doors, the glove box and the center console recharge electronic devices.
The cabin now becomes an extension of tablets & smartphones!
Faurecia, expert in interiors, decoration, trimming and a strong driver in automotive innovation and Magneti Marelli (expert in display and electronic technologies) teamed up around this very exciting piece to showcase their know-how.
Adding to interior sleekness, the First Inch Demonstrator features an armrest on the console that slides back to reveal two cup holders. When the cup holders are not in use, the armrest provides an uninterrupted surface extending back from the e-shifter.
The bottom of the console sides are covered with Ligneos, Faurecia’s real-wood material than can be applied to large and complex surfaces. Ligneos, which Faurecia has started to supply for a limited number of vehicles on the road, adds to the natural-materials appearance of the console and stack.
Faurecia has designed all these innovations into an ergonomic center stack and console that respond to driver and passenger through touch screens and switchless controls integrated into the skin and decoration of the cockpit and center console . The first inch of these surfaces enhances the comfort and ease of life onboard, allowing the driver to focus more attention on driving and less on attempting to adjust knobs and switches.