Apparently spontaneous warning tones, flashing indicators that don’t make immediate sense, a long search for options to change settings: We’ve all experienced this when we’re sitting in a car. This shows that besides external design, speed and seating capacity in a car, the user experience is also a decisive factor. Which poses the question: How easy and enjoyable is the car’s adaptation to my needs? And does it give me the right information clearly at the right time? If things get complicated or confusing, we switch off. The mental leap from “I don’t understand that” to “I don’t need that” is short.
People love products and services which need no explanation and can be used intuitively. This is why the car interior of tomorrow will be geared towards comfort and connectivity. Continental provides the right cockpit displays to make sure driving is a real thrill.
While only ten percent of functions in a new car were controlled by software in 2013, this will probably rise to 40 percent in 2023.
While the car used to be primarily a comfortable means of transport, today it primarily lives off connectivity and the human-machine dialog. The vision: The vehicle must be empathetic, be aware of the feelings and perceptions of its users, and integrate them into its reactions and response. The opportunities for drivers to interact with the car and their experience behind the wheel are becoming increasingly important.
The aim is to minimize the complexity of interaction with the car, even when utilizing its full functionality. Efficient human-machine interfaces are a key competitive factor beyond the automotive industry.
For vehicles, interior design and display concept are becoming important features differentiating the brands. The in-car entertainment system, i.e. entertainment, communication and information on wheels, is now one of the strategically critical areas for automotive manufacturers.
“Displays are the central human-machine interface in the vehicle,” says Phillip von Hirschheydt, head of the User Experience business unit at Continental. “This is why the design of display solutions plays a central role in the design of the cockpit.” Continental is bringing two innovations to market in this area.
Making what matters visible
Let’s take a short trip into the future: Start a film at home on the couch and finish watching it in the car on the way to another city. This is the promise of autonomous driving. But where exactly in the car can the film actually be seen? The Continental ShyTech display can hide behind various materials and appear by magic when it’s needed. It combines a purist design with display and operating surfaces that only appear when they are needed. This is not only relevant with regard to entertainment electronics in the car of the future, but will soon help drivers keep an eye on all the important information in an intelligent way. It will be on the market from 2025. This is where we talk about the development process.
Innovations begin with the right questions
A lot of information is processed and displayed in modern connected vehicles which will be increasingly automated in future. To visualize this flood of information, bigger and bigger screens are being installed in cars. However, not everything that’s displayed is always relevant. It can even lead to distraction and pose a risk to driving safety. Large displays without content also don’t look good. This initial situation led to two central questions that Continental developers have been working on, explains Möller, Senior Expert, User Experience Continental:
“The challenge facing us was to resolve the contradiction between the driver’s need to call up a lot of information in an attractive, large scale way that can be customized as much as possible, while at the same time preventing the vehicle interior from being completely dominated by displays and overwhelming the vehicle’s occupants with stimuli.”
The answer is the Continental ShyTech display. Depending on requirements, individual areas can be accessed, or large-scale displays such as navigation maps or films can be shown.
This is made possible by a semi-transparent surface which allows screens to be seamlessly integrated into the surrounding surface – visually and haptically. If a display is not relevant, it is left invisible to the human eye. The focus of the new display is on simplifying presentation. Visual communication with the driver should be as intuitive as possible.
“This allows for a quiet and spacious interior design.”
Philipp von Hirschheydt, head of the User Experience business unit at Continental
This also makes possible harmonious and purist interior design. The display works under different surfaces, for example with natural materials such as wood look or leather, or other patterns. However, not everything disappears and can optionally be displayed. Safety has priority. Navigation or communication information and the touchscreen menu are always visible, if desired.
Thanks to ShyTech’s innovations, screens can be positioned virtually anywhere in the interior. “This allows for a quiet and spacious interior design, which a wealth of new functions can be integrated into at the same time – but without overwhelming the passengers,” says Philipp von Hirschheydt, head of the User Experience business unit at Continental. Distracting reflections, for example in low sun, are also reduced. “In this way, ShyTech enables a holistically positive user experience with an impressive design that also reduces potential sources of distraction in the vehicle. Our ShyTech displays are bringing in a new era, and epitomize for us the cockpit of the future: Digital, immersive and ‘shy’,” says Hirschheydt.
Continental was awarded "Gold" at the German Design Award for its ShyTech display for excellent product design in the Automotive Parts and Accessories category. Every year, the award honors innovative and forward-looking products and projects for outstanding design. "Receiving the highest honor of the German Design Award for our ShyTech display is a great recognition for our team. It confirms our approach to purist vehicle design and outstanding user experience," says Philipp von Hirschheydt, Head of User Experience Business Area at Continental.
The ShyTech display also prevailed in the "In-Vehicle Entertainment & Safety" category of the CES Innovation Awards. “With a highly-competitive selection process, every individual recognition at the CES Innovation Awards is an honor,” said Nikolai Setzer, Continental CEO and Chairman of the Automotive Board.
With the iF Design Award, Continental can be pleased about another award for the ShyTech Display.
Continental has another display solution in the starting blocks for 2023. The technology company has won the first major order for OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) displays in a production vehicle from a global vehicle manufacturer, with a total order volume of around €1 billion. The multi-display stretches from the driver’s area to the center console, and integrates two screens, which are optically linked behind a curved glass surface.
Research into OLED technology has been under way since the 1980s. To date, there are more than 6,600 known patents. The term “organic” is somewhat difficult to place. Many think of “natural” or “biological,” but it actually means “containing carbon.” The conductive layers of an OLED display use compounds based on carbon molecules.
When voltage is applied, OLED displays emit their own light, and are not reliant on external background lighting, as was the case with previous displays. This makes the displays very thin, and we see a better black value and much sharper contrasts. As a result, these new displays offer us an even more vivid image which matches what the human eye perceives.
Fans of entertainment electronics have been using OLED devices for a long time, and now Continental is also impressing drivers with this technology. “With the OLED technology in our multi-display solution, home movie enthusiasts now also get the full experience in cars. Our OLED display once again demonstrates that we are pioneers in the digital evolution of the cockpit,” says von Hirschheydt.
"Our OLED display once again demonstrates that we are pioneers in the digital evolution of the cockpit."
Philipp von Hirschheydt, head of the User Experience business unit at Continental
Because backlighting is unnecessary, units are extremely light and slim. This significantly increases design freedom. The technology also allows for more complex shapes and curved installation of the display. The narrow edge of the screen rounds off the overall visual package. The brilliance of the image generated and the significantly improved contrasts make it even easier to read information. In addition, organic LEDs offer a very wide range of colors, making them the ideal basis for high-quality, user-friendly content. Thanks to OLED, contrast and color diversity are maintained over a very wide viewing angle of almost 180° without loss, which makes the display in the center console particularly attractive for passengers as well.
Ease of use is important for the acceptance of new technologies
Anyone cruising a chic and functional website and choosing a brand, or making a doctor’s appointment with a clearly organized app, or confidently using their credit card online has grown to trust and be comfortable with the user experience. This is precisely the task of instruments in the car interior of the future – including new displays. This is no small task: You need to create trust and deliver safety. For example, a first-class operating system is also the most important criterion for the acceptance of future autonomous cars.