TS Tech, a global supplier of automobile and motorcycle seats and automotive interiors, and Canatu, a developer and manufacturer of 3D formable and stretchable films and touch sensors, have jointly developed a new demonstrator to showcase the capabilities of both companies’ technologies in in-vehicle applications.
The new demonstrator is in the form of a decorative door trim with 3D touch switches to control the power seat adjustments. Canatu and TS Tech will present the new demonstrator at Automotive Interiors Expo Virtual ‘Live’ to be held December 1-2, 2020.
The companies note that autonomous driving calls for progressive human-machine interfaces (HMIs) that enable the driver to lean back and maximize comfort while driving. As a result, seats and door trims will rise in relevance when designing HMIs as they are always closest to the driver.
In Level 3 vehicles (conditional driving automation) and above, it is assumed that the driver will take a relaxed posture within a range where they are always ready to take control if the system is unable to execute the task. However, when the driver enters this position the car’s center display and instrument panel will be out of the occupant’s reach. Seats and door trims are ideal places for user interfaces as they allow a driver to effortlessly control the functions from the lean-back position.
Conventional capacitive touch sensor films may not be able to withstand stretching required for three-dimensional processing. According to Canatu, with its bendable and transparent Carbon NanoBud (CNB) film, it is possible to incorporate touch switches that conform to the shape of the door trim grip. Together with TS Tech’s decorative door trim technology, the solution is said to offer an intuitive user experience.
“We believe that these 3D touch switches will become an integral component of the automotive HMIs in the future because they are thinner and lighter than conventional physical switches, have fewer restrictions on where they can be installed, and allow for a wide range of design possibilities when combined with decorative elements,” explained Takahiro Kobori, director, and executive general manager, corporate development and engineering division, TS Tech.
“With Canatu 3D touch technology, virtually any surface in the car can be made smart and functional. By integrating 3D touch switches into the seats, door trims and other automotive interiors, we are enabling a more convenient and comfortable driving experience while offering OEMs differentiation possibilities through higher degree of design freedom,” added Juha Kokkonen, CEO, Canatu.
In the demonstrator, functions are divided into upper and lower operating areas that are activated by two grip detection sensors located on the side of the door handle. Upon activation, touch switches and lights turn on in the respective operating area.
In addition to forward and backward adjustments, the seatback recline can be altered, and the power seat can be raised or lowered and tilted, to suit the comfort of the driver/passenger. When the hand is released from the door handle, touch switches are disabled, and lighting turns off.