A consortium of four UK companies, Astheimer, Conjure, Potenza Technology and BAMD, has unveiled a concept vehicle representing a future vision for a lightweight, electric sportscar. Dubbed Aura, its development has been part by the UK government’s Office for Zero Emission Vehicles via the Niche Vehicle Network (NVN), which aims to help companies develop new automotive technologies.
Rather than placing an emphasis on performance in terms of speed, the Aura instead majors on range, with an initial estimate of 400 miles from its pair of 44kWh battery packs. Beyond the low-drag bodywork and electric powertrain, a key element of the concept is its HMI system – said to be one of the first in a road legal vehicle developed around Android’s Automotive Operating System (AAOS). The HMI system, engineered by London-based specialist Conjure, presents occupants with an array of information via a pair of screens, a 10.4in central touchscreen display and a self-levelling, 5in display in the steering wheel.
Chris Tingley, CTO and co-founder of Conjure, outlined the system architecture to Automotive Interiors World: “We have used a single, NXP-based i.MX8 compute unit [a System on Module setup, which incorporates all system processes on a single module], which runs four processors – two real time and two as applications processors. The real-time processors sit on top of the vehicle network, communicating via CAN, and the application processors run the AAOS. This is one of the first road-legal cars, certainly in the UK, to use that system.”
Considerable effort was dedicated to designing an HMI that gives vital efficiency information to the driver in an easy to digest manner. A novel inclusion is the use of real-time aerodynamic data to suggest adjustments to driving style in order to improve efficiency. The vehicle features an array of aerodynamic pressure sensors in its nose, and the data from these is compared to pressure plots deduced from CFD simulation, to ascertain if a headwind or tailwind is present. This is then displayed to the driver as an efficiency rating via the wheel display, suggesting whether they either need to slow down, or even speed up, to maximize efficiency.
The system also incorporates specialist Spark EV Technology’s range prediction software, which leverages machine learning to predict range based on inputs such as driving style, terrain and weather. This can be presented to the driver in a variety of ways, including via the navigation systems, showing the anticipated vehicle state of charge (SoC) at various waypoints along a planned route.
According to Tingley, the project presented several challenges for Conjure, particularly when it came to dealing with the component-based elements of the system: “The lower-level stuff for us was definitely a learning curve. Generally, when we work with customers, be they OEMs, or Tier 1s, we’re presented with the hardware that we have to use. This is a very different project for us, where we were actually able to determine what hardware we wanted to use. We purposely picked something that was really capable. For example, we’ve got two screens in this vehicle, but the NXP unit we’ve used can power up to eight if needed.”
Though the Aura is not planned for volume production, the HMI certainly provides an insight into the capabilities that AAOS offers, making high-quality, high-powered display solutions available even to niche vehicle manufacturers.