The HMI Element of Connected Cars

11/8/2013
In the world of connected cars, the HMI (human machine interface) serves as the link between the car and the driver, allowing access to the data and services. Therefore, optimal development of HMIs will likely be a vital aspect of the connected-car industry going forward.

One company widely recognized for its delivery of on-road intelligence and navigation services through connected technology is INRIX, www.inrix.com. In terms of the navigation features provided by HMI, Mark Pendergrast, the company’s director of product development, emphasizes the importance of data that is personalized, contextualized, simple, and delivered in realtime.

However, Pendergrast notes INRIX sees HMI growing beyond more traditional mapping and traffic services, and into richer, more contextualized services.


“What we think is really exciting is the ability to take relevant information, such as drive time, incident alerts, calendar appointments, and integrating that right into the vehicle in a way that doesn’t distract the driver, or force them to look at their phone or some other device on the seat next to them,” Pendergrast says.

While personalization of data is widely considered to be vital, building an emotional relationship between the driver and the data remains critical for the market to move forward. Speaking on the subject from the perspective of the OEM (original-equipment manufacturer), Charles Koch, manager of new business development at Honda, www.honda.com, notes modern car buyers have high expectations for the way in-vehicle technology works and appears. As such, Honda has been trying to shift its HMI designs with a greater emphasis on fun for the driver.

“It can be as personalized as it can possibly be from a technical standpoint, but if it’s not enjoyable to use, it’s going to fall short as an appealing feature,” Koch says.

Koch also sees ease of use as a critical factor for HMIs, using in-vehicle voice features as an example. He has seen more than his fair share of people opting not to use the voice technology simply because they were not able to use it successfully within 15-20 seconds.
Naturally, the functionality of an HMI plays heavily into the establishment of an identity for an OEM such as Honda.

Pendergrast says the onus falls upon the OEMs to create that brand awareness, and increase the visibility of connected-car offerings.

“It is up to the OEMs to drive what their unique differentiating product will be in the connected services market,” Pendergrast says. “As a supplier to the market, INRIX clearly wants to be integrated with as many OEM products as possible. But ultimately it’s the OEM that is driving that awareness of that functionality to the consumer at the dealer.”

The optimization of the HMI is also playing a critical role in car-sharing services, which allow people to rent out vehicles for short periods of time. Car-sharing services have come into the limelight in recent years through such brands as Zipcar, www.zipcar.com, DriveNow, www.drive-now.com, and Car2Go, www.car2go.com. Pendergrast says some car-sharing companies have already begun incorporating HMIs into their vehicles, but believes there is still room for improvement.

He believes these car-sharing services are, in many ways, the future of transportation, particularly for Millennials and younger generations. However, he adds, HMIs in shared vehicles aren’t currently as personalized as possible. Pendergast notes there’s nothing stopping car-sharing companies from adding more personalization into their vehicles, and offering smarter services to customers.

As time goes on, connected-vehicle technology continues to advance, and change the landscape of the automotive industry. As such, HMIs may need to advance as well in order to continue connecting drivers with the features they enjoy.

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