Safety, comfort and control
Disruption in every direction
Automotive is changing fast. We’re accelerating towards autonomous vehicles, fully-connected to their surroundings via big data and the IoT. Vehicles will soon be used rather than owned. We’ll all become passengers as cars become communal, shared spaces where every occupant is freed from driving and is instead enjoying enhanced in-vehicle environments or entertainment.
In this new world, offering differentiated, exciting experiences to passengers is the only way to thrive. Consequently, the automotive supply chain is concentrating on vehicle interiors, where they seek to enhance safety, comfort, interaction methods and ergonomic design. The aim is to amplify occupant experience while delivering business benefits such as cost reduction, speed-to-market and enhanced sustainability. In some cases, they’re even trying to enable new business models based not just on transportation, but on in-car info- and entertainment too.
Focus remains the key to success. Automotive innovators see it makes sense to concentrate their efforts where they’ll have the most chance of success. So they’re working with TG0 to improve experience in the most logical place. The seat.
“The autonomous vehicle is encouraging designers and engineers to evolve automotive seating to deliver superior comfort and ergonomics, use lighter and sustainable materials, and incorporate smart seating technology. The future, indeed, looks very exciting.”
Automotive-IQ, Automotive Seating innovation, What’s Next?
TG0 for Automotive
TG0 offers advanced tactile surfaces that allow passengers and drivers to control vehicle functionality.
- Smart surfaces
Incorporating sensors into a range of polymer materials that can be moulded into any shape, allowing true freedom of design.
Using touch, twist, pull, squeeze, scroll or even gesture to control in-car functionality including door handles, stereos, centre consoles, infotainment and steering wheels.
Combined hardware and software solutions, including machine learning, that meet the needs of leading automotive suppliers and OEMs.
The seat — the centrepiece of a connected car
Seats make sense as the centre of innovation — after all they’re the place where the driver or passenger(s) spend the most time.
Across the industry, seat specialists, OEMs and Tier 1 manufacturers and their supply chains are looking to innovate on seats in three key areas:
Focusing on physical re-designs of the seat, but also adding functionality that can enhance seat occupancy and sense driver movement to prevent accidents from fatigue or match airbag deployment to the weight or height of the individual.
- Comfort and wellbeing
Rethinking the design and materials used in seat construction, but also adding automatic and intelligent comfort enhancements such as reactive seat heating and posture analysis and control. Innovation in this area is a virtuous circle; the more information that can be gathered about seat use – including via touch and pressure sensing technology – the more ergonomic the final design.
- Infotainment control
Control mechanisms are moving from the dashboard into areas that are more intuitive and less distracting. Passengers – especially in shared vehicles – need control mechanisms that don’t require stretching or reaching for a dial or button. Consequently, many companies are looking at adopting new types of in-vehicle HMIs (Human Machine Interfaces) that allow drivers or passengers to control functions such as windows and stereos from an area on the seat. In-seat sensors can also take information about the occupant for analysis or action – for example a seat vibration if the driver hasn’t changed position in a while.
“Smart seats are the impending consequence of the advent of AVs and EVs, so companies are adjusting their product strategies.”
Automotive-IQ, Automotive Seating innovation, What’s Next?
Innovation across the industry
Seat innovation is widespread and attracts significant investment of both funding and people. Industry leader Hyundai Transys is considering seats in the context of the driver’s physical, and even emotional mental state. Others are looking at armrest-style module controls, while Daimler and Mercedes-Benz have examined seat kinetics for different journey lengths.
Here are some examples of recent seat innovations.
Industry example 1: Combining smartphone and seat for greater comfort
Faurecia Automotive Seating has created a smartphone app to improve the seating experience. The app takes user details and analyses a photograph of a person in-situ in a car seat to calculate the ideal seat settings. These settings are then transmitted to the car seat controller via Bluetooth.
TG0 is also looking at enhancing seat comfort. Our team has created proof of concepts for seats with smart surfaces that automatically sense a person’s position, movement and posture.
Industry example 2: A prophecy of things to come?
The seat is a major focus point of Hyundai’s Prophecy concept electric vehicle (EV). In April 2020 Hyundai revealed details of a Smart Posture Care System, which uses driver height, seated height and weight to adjust the seat for maximum comfort. The concept is now available in the GV70 model: the GV70 automatically sets an optimal driving posture based on the driver's height, sitting height and weight – as entered in the infotainment system. Seat position, head-up display, side mirror and steering wheel position auto-adjust based on the entered details.
Injuries and aches from poor posture are a growing issue in our increasingly sedentary lives. TG0 has created in-seat sensors monitor pressure and movement. In the future, certain movements could trigger an automatic re-positioning of the seat. Alternatively, controls for adjusting back rests and seat height could be incorporated into seat arms.
Industry example 3: The floating seat
Leading automotive car seat company Adient is working on a ‘floating seat’ that uses innovative swivel systems rather than recliners or four-way mechanisms. The seat reduces complexity, simplifies handling for the occupant and improves comfort while adding dedicated safety systems. Users just release the mechanism to float into their desired position. Adient has also used innovative materials technology over many years to successfully strip weight out of automotive seats.
TG0 is also working with automotive companies to reduce weight. By integrating TG0 sensor technology into existing materials, it’s possible to improve functionality and reduce the number of parts, while ‘lightweighting’ the vehicle.
Multiple avenues for innovation
There are many use cases for new automotive seat technology. Here are some examples currently being explored:
Sensing technologies including touch and pressure sensors within seats can detect if a seat is being used, and how long it is being used for. Use cases include safety alerts if a driver is ‘in-situ’ for too long and not taking adequate breaks over a long-distance journey, plus infant detection in child seats — potentially alerting drivers to children moving about unsecured by a seatbelt. Transport operators including airlines,and bus and train operators can use the same technology to gain vital knowledge about usage rates and comfort via accurate occupancy and movement checks.
As we move to shared and autonomous vehicles and usage rather than ownership models, brand value drivers will migrate from exterior aesthetics to in-vehicle experiences. The industry is moving towards models whereby height, weight, comfort and postural shapes can be analysed automatically by in-seat sensors. TG0, for example, has built pressure-sensing capability to detect movement and weight distribution, thereby providing evaluations and the potential to correct seat position to improve posture.
Those same sensing capabilities, coupled with ‘connected car’ functions such as outdoor temperature sensing may also lead to the automatic activation of in-seat heating systems. Postural analysis can lead to personalised seat positioning, or proactive comfort features such as in-seat massages. As consumers lead increasingly sedentary lifestyles, in-seat analytics can offer both comfort and the associated health benefits of corrected seating positions.
Continual in-car postural analysis, such as that pioneered by TG0, can reveal user intention – or inattention - thereby preventing accidents. Other systems, including those using cameras, are focusing on holistic driver monitoring.
The business considerations
The pace of technological change, increased competition from new automotive players, and the need to stay ahead of the curve have placed automotive companies under intense pressure. More than ever they need to lean on their innovation and supply chain partners to:
- Embed new electronics and sensing capabilities into an old-fashioned supply chain
- Reduce innovation timelines
- get to prototype faster to gain executive buy-in
- develop software and physical equipment concurrently rather than consecutively
- show a clear path to rapid ROI
- Reduce costs
- gain flexibility on materials usage
- simplify manufacturing and increase ease of assembly
- Enhance the customer experience
- improve aesthetics through ergonomic design
- use data to drive comfort, control and safety
- Meet changing regulatory demands
- find solutions that are compliant with new seat occupancy regulations
- embed advanced safety capabilities in existing seat materials and structures
TG0 helps automotive businesses to cut project timelines and costs, while delivering superior solutions.
The technical considerations
The parameters for automotive innovation keep on growing in scope and number. Added importance of in-car aesthetics, pressure on sustainability, and the need to manage cost while scaling new solutions fast have provoked seat specialists and OEMs into considering new technologies that can meet both user and business needs.
Specific technical considerations include:
- Choosing solutions that improve ergonomics
Examples include examining injection-moulded electronics, so controls can be seamlessly integrated into any shape or space.
- Demonstrating sustainability
Automotive design relies heavily on fossil-fuel based plastics and electrical components, which can prove problematic in a sustainability context. Designers are now under pressure to reduce the number of moving parts, solve or improve end-of-life recycling / re-use / repair issues for electrical equipment and reduce weight from vehicles, thereby improving fuel efficiency.
- Gathering data
Automotive is increasingly data-driven. As we move towards connected cars and autonomous vehicles, automotive leaders will need reliable, scalable technology that can assist them in gathering actionable insight into user behaviour.
“In the next decade, the automotive industry will face a magnitude of change that has not been seen in a century. This change will be driven primarily by four mutually reinforcing trends, i.e., autonomous, connected, electric, and shared (ACES) vehicles. These will result in different user behaviours and mobility preferences, shifting value pools, innovative business models, and new entrants into automotive. All of these trends are enabled by the advancement of technology in electronics and SW and thus have a substantial impact on the automotive electronics and SW market.”
McKinsey & Company: Automotive software and electronics 2030,
Mapping the sector’s future landscape, July 2019
Design and interface considerations
Debate continues about which HMI is best for in-car and in-seat innovation. As controls migrate away from the dashboard, companies are experimenting with camera and voice control, although they have some concerns regarding privacy. They’re also paying increasing attention to infrared, ultrasonic and radar-sensing and control. TG0’s offer, which concentrates on touch, pressure and gesture sensing, is gaining traction, both as a control mechanism, and as a means of capturing actionable insight on users and journeys.
TG0 and Novares
TG0 is working closely with leading automotive supplier Novares on a number of intuitive plastics-based user interface projects. TG0 previously collaborated with Novares on a singular multi-functional ‘squeeze command’ door control project for the future-focused concept vehicle Nova Car 2.
Speak to a member of our team to find out more about this project.
“The key factors augmenting the growth of the [global automotive HMI] market are the rapid advancements in IoT, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR), and connectivity technologies, their increasing integration in HMI solutions, and the rapid digitization in vehicles. The soaring disposable income of people and the rising sales of premium vehicles are the other major factors fuelling the expansion of the automotive HMI market across the globe. Another key factor causing the surge of the market is the increasing incorporation of safety features in automobiles all over the world. This is mainly because of the rising prevalence of road accidents in several countries, because of various human errors.”
Where TG0 fits in
TG0 is involved in several automotive projects that focus on the seat as a centre of innovation. Our groundbreaking, patented touch sensing technology, combined with our ability to build electronics into a variety of trim materials and any shape, means we can:
- Create and mould in-seat sensors to fit preferred technical and aesthetic design.
These inserts capture real-time data on touch, gesture, pressure, weight distribution via soft material sensors – for example sensors integrated into EVA foam. The technology can be integrated directly into the existing seat construction supply chain, meaning no need for fundamental redesign, or significant added weight.
- Integrate new, ‘more human’ interfaces into any area of a car interior.
Control types can include squeeze, pinch, press, touch, stroke. Our sensing solutions are injection-moulded allowing us to create controls in any shape.
- Design and build associated software
We are not only hardware solutions providers. We also develop the software APIs needed to test and validate use cases.
- Meet desired parameters regarding cost, sustainability, usability, and aesthetics
We have diverse technical skills and many years of innovation and design for manufacturing expertise within our team.
- Accelerate innovation and time to prototype
We have a dedicated on-premises workshop and extensive links within the global electronics supply chain, allowing us to get to a working model faster.
While much of TG0’s work remains confidential, projects already in the public domain include work with Airbus on a seating proof of concept, and installing new ‘squeeze command’ control technology into ‘future car’ prototypes with Novares.
TG0 is now actively looking for seat specialists, automotive interior experts and OEMs to partner on future automotive seating innovation projects.