Touchscreens are becoming increasingly commonplace in modern cars; once the exclusive purview of top-dollar luxury vehicles, these days, you only need to shell out money for a range-topping Perodua Myvi and you’ll have a touchscreen at your service. Slicker and more sophisticated versions avail themselves as you move up the market, but there is little doubt of the technology’s growing importance.
From a design perspective, touchscreens allow designers to pen dashboards with fewer buttons and less clutter, but ergonomically, the big problem they have is the complete lack of tactile feedback. With old-fashioned buttons and knobs, it is possible, with familiarity, to feel your way through controls without taking your eyes off the road – something which obviously cannot be done with a touchscreen, and it is something that will soon change.
Global automotive supplier Continental has announced that development of a new generation of touchscreens that give off active haptic feedback when touched. Series production models are scheduled for a 2017 roll out date, but the company feels the technology is now sufficiently refined that it is confident in showing the world a working demonstrator unit.
Behind the bonded layers of the demonstrator’s eight-inch touchscreen is a system of haptic actuators made up of an electromagnetic spool with two windings. Besides triggering mechanical feedback which the user can feel at his/her fingertips, the actuators are also responsible for measuring the amount of force exerted by the user. Continental claims that it has the capability to scale the technology up to screen sizes of 12.3 inches. More importantly, haptic feedback exerted by the screen can be customized to exude brand-specific feel and characteristics.
Features built into the screen include a finely-tuned force recognition system that is claimed to be able to distinguish between deliberate and accidental touches. It also allows for haptic search, meaning the driver can feel his/her through the screen to find the button he/she is looking for.