That’s the opinion of many within the industry. Tesla showed us how to do it (no matter how flawed the execution is) and its clear that the rest of the industry is headed that way. Yet there remains a serious issue with automotive on-screen interfacing – a lack of tactile feedback. That’s now set to change with a new technology Bosch that could revolutionize on-screen in-car interfaces.
The idea of touch-screens is at odds with what BMW and MINI have traditionally believed in. Since 2001 BMW has been all in with the iDrive controller as a method of screen input. That subtly changed 2-3 years ago with the addition of a multi-touch input on top of that controller. Then this fall BMW introduced a major iteration of iDrive with the new G01 7 Series that allowed the iDrive system to be controlled almost entirely via touch.
We believe BMW (and MINI) are slowly preparing us for a full touch-screen system that puts almost all of the car’s functionality behind screens. The iDrive controller won’t go away for awhile but the need for it will diminish greatly as BMW brings new screen technology to market.
What will greatly help in this transition will be advanced screen technologies similar to what Bosch just announced. The concept couples advanced haptic feedback that creates the feel of physical buttons on a flat screen. The notion is that this gives drivers the ability to operate them with less eyes on the screen and more attention to the road.
We expect BMW will move to a touch-screen iDrive in the 4th generation MINI due out in late 2019 as a 2020 model. The screen will likely grow in size, resolution along with adding touch screen capabilities. While we believe Apple CarPlay and Android Auto could come slightly sooner, these upgrades should make them much more compelling options.
Here’s the official press release from Bosch about their new touch screen tech. It’s worth noting that we don’t have confirmation from BMW that they are using this technology. However we have heard they are prototyping advanced screen technologies for future versions of iDrive.
New York/Hildesheim – A touch screen with haptic feedback developed by Bosch was honored with the “CES 2016 Innovation Award” in the “In-Vehicle Audio/ Video” category on November 10, 2015. The special feature of the touch screen: thanks to haptic feedback, users can operate infotainment applications such as navigation, radio, or smartphone functions interactively. The keys displayed on the touch screen have the feel of realistic buttons so that it is often possible for users to find their way around the keyboard without looking while operating the applications. They can keep their eyes on the road for much longer periods, substantially enhancing safety while driving. “The new touch screen combines the simple operation of mechanical buttons with the advantages of a touch screen, significantly enhancing ease of operation” says Manfred Baden, President of the Bosch Car Multimedia division. “The innovative technology offers everything that is required to ensure its fast success on the market.” The CES Innovation Awards are sponsored by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)TM and recognize the best products at the CES in advance of the show every year. Bosch was previously the recipient of the Best-of-CES Award for the Chevrolet MyLink system in the category “Car Tech” in 2013.
Sensitivity right to the fingertips for enhanced safety while driving
The new touch screen offers a unique form of interaction. When touched, the display responds with haptic elements as well as visual and acoustic signals. Drivers can feel the keys on the touch screen without looking thanks to variances in the surface structures – and without immediately triggering an action. Rough, smooth, or even patterned surfaces stand for different buttons and functions. The virtual button is not activated until the operator presses it more firmly. Users have the feeling that they are pressing a normal, mechanical button. In appearance, however, the touch screen with haptic elements does not differ from a conventional display.
The touch screen also recognizes the amount of pressure applied by the fingers and activates different functions accordingly. Light pressure, for example, initiates the Help function; by applying varying pressure, users can control how fast or slowly they scroll through a list. Since drivers can feel the keys, looking at the keyboard while pressing a button to change a radio station (for example) is often unnecessary – eyes stay on the road more frequently. The touch screen is equipped with two sensors: a conventional touch sensor and a second sensor that measures the amount of pressure from the fingers. Special software and suspension mechanics are employed to create the various surface structures.