Piezo driver chip advances haptic feedback in automotive HMIs

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At CES, Boréas Technologies has demonstrated the BOS1211, which is said to be the first low-power, high-voltage piezoelectric driver integrated circuit (IC) to enable high-definition (HD) haptic feedback in automotive human-machine interfaces (HMIs). These include automotive infotainment screens and safety alerts in touch-sensitive steering wheels.

Designed to support the TDK family of 120V PowerHap piezo actuators in automotive applications, the BOS1211 is said to be critical to satisfying growing demand for clear tactile feedback in automotive environments.

“Haptic feedback is as old as the human experience, which is why we find it so satisfying to know that an object responds to our touch,” said Simon Chaput, founder and CEO, Boréas Technologies. “The advent of the digital world has increased our need for haptic feedback, and that’s why we’re seeing multiple Tier 1 automotive manufacturers replacing buttons and touchpads with haptic-feedback touchscreens as well as top automotive suppliers embedding haptics into their new display products. Piezo haptic solutions from Boréas and TDK are uniquely positioned to give automotive manufacturers and suppliers what they want most: uncompromising performance, small size, enduring reliability, and unparalleled power efficiency.”

More than 52,800,000 automotive touch panels will be on the market by 2020, according to the IHS Markit Center Stack Display Production Forecast, and that number is growing by 4.6% annually. At the same time, more drivers are using voice commands to make phone calls and send texts, or are receiving navigation instructions via audio.

Boréas says that although hands-free HMIs might sound like they’re safer for drivers, research from Stanford University – which compared skin-stretch haptic feedback on the car’s steering wheel to auditory feedback for in-car navigation – concluded that drivers receiving haptic feedback responded better than those receiving audio feedback. The biological reason for that, said the study, is that haptic feedback presents, “a smaller cognitive load than the audio cues when driving while aurally or verbally distracted.”

A further research study conducted by the US Air Force and Arizona State University concluded that drivers responded more effectively to tactile warnings, delivered via the gas pedal or the seat, than to visual or auditory warnings when alerted to rear-end collisions. Boréas says that while research is ongoing on whether tactile vs auditory or visual stimuli leads to more distracted driving, some researchers agree that the cognitive load on the human brain is less when that feedback is tactile.

The BOS1211 is currently sampling to key customers. To speed design to production with the BOS1211 with TDK 120V PowerHap actuators, from February 2020 Boréas will offer a plug-and-play development kit for piezo haptic feedback in automotive and other applications that require high-force haptic feedback.

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