Continental illustrates a safer future for motorists

Continental, the premium German automotive manufacturer, has devised a range of user-friendly touchscreen technologies for the gadget-savvy drivers around the world. As a move towards improving non-verbal communication between drivers and their vehicles, Continental has developed a system which allows drivers to draw symbols on the input display to instantly trigger a diverse array of functions and features in their vehicles.

The development of this new system further cements Continental's endeavour to reshape the future of daily driving and take its unrivalled driver safety heritage to the next level through Vision Zero. In a drive to boost road safety by further enhancing their advanced safety technologies, R&D experts at Continental have intensified their joint efforts to make Vision Zero a reality, setting an ambitious goal to be reached in three successive stages: Evolving from best in braking to zero fatalities, zero injuries and zero accidents.

"The use of symbols and system control through haptic methods allows drivers to access controls and functions much faster than with conventional control concepts involving buttons and switches. We have combined both elements to significantly reduce levels of driver distraction compared with the standard method using a touchscreen," explains Dr. Heinz Abel, head of Cross Product Solutions at Continental's Instrumentation & Driver HMI business unit.

With the new system, drivers will have the ability to interact with the car through the touchscreen display, choosing between handwritten or hand drawn symbols which can be activated simply by touching the display with two fingers. For example, drivers will be able to draw a heart symbol on the screen to access a favourite contact or a symbol in the shape of a house instructing the navigation system to direct the driver home. By drawing a circle, drivers can turn on the air-conditioning system in their apartment before they arrive.

"To ensure that such concepts are accepted, it is important that the symbols used are intuitive and do not have to be specially learned. At the same time, it should be possible to draw easy-to-remember symbols without getting distracted from the task of driving. Currently, in-house user studies prove that we have succeeded on both counts," says Dr. Abel.

A lab study conducted by Continental showed, among other things, that the technology can reduce the length of time required to call up the desired features and functions by approximately one third. In addition, using two fingers to draw a symbol reduced the concentration needed by one quarter, compared to using one finger.

The symbols can be drawn anywhere on the touch-sensitive surface of the input display, with drivers barely having to avert their eyes from the road; this ensures intuitive and user-friendly operation. At the same time, this concept extends the conventional human-machine dialogue by allowing users to create favourites that can be accessed directly at the first menu level.

"Our symbols cover the most frequently used functions in vehicle-driver communication, while, quite incidentally, the new approach makes the system much more fun to use as well," says Dr. Abel, summarising the benefits of this new concept.

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