Visteon, the pure-play supplier of automotive cockpit electronics, is aggressively innovating to meet automakers’ needs for smart, digital cockpits for electric and automated vehicles. Aashish Bhatia, Country Head, Visteon India, speaks on the industry trends, new advances in connectivity and electronics, and the role of Visteon India's technical centre in the company's global scheme of things.
What are the most anticipated technological
advancements and trends in cockpit electronics?
While we are responding to the crisis caused by coronavirus, we are also creating a culture where innovation thrives. Our engineers constantly work toward building technology that provides a connected, enjoyable, and safe driving experience. We believe the majority of cockpit electronic trends that were prevalent prior to the pandemic will remain largely intact and will continue to drive growth for the industry.
Instrument clusters are becoming increasingly digitised. This trend will continue and critical safety information, such as forward-collision and lane-departure warnings as well as blind-spot assistance, can be conveyed to the driver quickly and reliably. With shrinking product development timelines, we see the industry leaning toward Android-based infotainment systems. Android is open source, offers a broader app ecosystem, has the world’s largest developer community, and enables rapid product development making it the preferred operating system for automotive.
The need for bigger, higher-resolution, immersive and intuitive mainstream displays will continue to grow, although OEM cost considerations will likely delay the adoption of OLED technology and expensive pillar-to-pillar displays globally.
At CES this year, we introduced MicroZone, an innovative display technology that offers significantly higher graphics performance than traditional LCD displays. It also provides high contrast and brightness, and wide colour gamut that enables automotive displays to achieve parity similar to mobile devices.
Lastly, new and cost-effective silicon and camera solutions will propel the growth of ADAS. The current crisis will likely push fully autonomous driving further out in time.
What is the latest update on vehicle cockpit display trends?
The vehicle cockpit is evolving into a multi-display environment. Increasingly, multiple displays in the cabin are being integrated into a single module with a glass cover lens for improved look and feel, and with sensors for touch, proximity and gestures.
This multi-display module is the latest trend in vehicle cockpits. Visteon’s strategy is to lead the transition of the industry toward multi-display modules, and we are currently the leaders in key related technologies, such as optical bonding and the design and manufacture of curved glass cover lens.
We have also introduced automotive-specific display innovations, such as MicroZone, which offers premium optical performance at a competitive price point for automakers, without sacrificing reliability or lifespan. Another interesting display technology we showcased at CES 2020 is our flexible, rotating glass display. The product included a centre information display (CID) screen that can actually be bent by 15 degrees forward and 5 degrees back. With all these technologies coupled with our state-of-the-art manufacturing capabilities, we are pushing the boundaries of creativity and innovation.
How can in-vehicle voice assistants help consumers to be more productive and entertained while they travel?
Voice-based AI technology is becoming increasingly integrated into our daily lifestyle — Google Home and Amazon Alexa are the most popular global platforms currently utilising this innovative technology. They assist us by playing our favourite music, booking a cab or ordering food. Leading automakers have also begun to transform the cockpit by integrating speech recognition and smart assistant features to augment the user’s in-car experience.
We have developed a strong AI competency in the areas of voice recognition. Our ‘Say ‘n Serve’ smart voice assistant is designed to use natural language for on- or off-board commands in the vehicle — such as moderating cabin temperature or selecting a different song on your infotainment system — without the need for Cloud connectivity.
Our teams are constantly creating experiences that help cars communicate like humans, not the other way around. Building a natural and organic interface will help to create a more rounded and effective user experience, while also developing a bond of trust between the consumer and the in-vehicle system.
In the near future, we expect many assistants to co-exist in a car environment and will talk to each other. You could be in a Microsoft environment using Cortana and could query Alexa for additional services. Visteon’s own 'Say ’n Serve' platform can also work hand-in-hand with Alexa, making sure that the consumer has a great brand experience.
With technology constantly evolving, how do you provide the best user experience for consumers?
We are focused on creating consumer-centric experiences. As mentioned earlier, voice technology is our top priority. It takes centre stage when creating the best possible in-car experience. Also, consumers today are very familiar with their smart devices and, as a result, they expect the same level of performance from their infotainment system as well–supported by software updates. Our Android-based infotainment system provides cutting-edge user experience and offers a connected app store that keeps the user's cockpit interface constantly refreshed in terms of theme or colour scheme.
Our recent launch, VW Play, that we developed for Volkswagen’s Nivus crossover was created with usability in mind. The infotainment technology offers a 10.1-inch in-plane switching display with 1540x720 high-definition screen resolution. Therefore, a high-resolution video played on the system looks good from any angle — making the system convenient and accessible to all vehicle occupants. The touch-panel is optically-bonded, thus improving the contrast ratio and readability for the user. Also, the product is fitted with a ‘split screen’ feature that facilitates user personalisation and rearview camera capabilities.
Lastly, we are also working on multi-display solutions driven by a single Android system. Android 10 has a feature called multiple launchers, which is designed to independently operate two different applications in two displays.
How is Visteon India contributing to the company’s global developments in cockpit electronics?
Visteon has had a presence in India for more than two decades now, working with many automakers in the country. Our growth is spurred by the ideas, innovation and commitment of our 1,500 strong workforces across Bangalore, Chennai, Goa, and Pune. The technical and manufacturing teams in India play a key role in developing and advancing cockpit electronics technologies such as AI, deep machine learning and cybersecurity. Our teams have the software and product engineering capabilities to support the needs of global automakers and contribute to the global development of advanced technologies in these areas.
(Visteon has debuted its cockpit tech in the new Hyundai Creta. Delivering standard 3.5-inch mono and 7-inch 'supervision' TFT variants, the cluster offers all custom platform features presented in an easy-to-access and intuitive display.)
The pandemic is expected to give a fillip to electric vehicles in India. How ready are you to support it?
The trend toward making the cockpit a digital environment has already started, but EVs have given it another boost. In the case of EVs, there is a need to relay critical information such as battery status and the route to the nearest charging station into the cockpit. Thus, EVs are contributing immensely to the growth of the all-digital cockpit.
We will equally support the traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) and EV market because we don't necessarily see a big difference. So, if you look at clusters, there is about 80 percent commonality between that instrument clusters for ICEs versus EVs. And, in many cases, because OEMs cannot afford to have a separate development for ICEs versus EVs, they tend to go with one development for both.
In the future, both EVs and ICE vehicles will have largely the same level of cockpit electronics technology.
Visteon is in a great position to offer a unique value proposition to automakers. We can build a digital cluster or an infotainment system for them that can serve the needs for ICE vehicles as well as EVs.
How have you addressed the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic?
Our industry is facing a significant challenge as a result of the global pandemic that has disrupted the way we live and work. During these unprecedented times, Visteon’s top priority is safeguarding the health and safety of our employees, followed by protecting the financial health of the company and ensuring business continuity for our customers.
We swiftly implemented comprehensive safety protocol and procedures, in compliance with local regulations, for our manufacturing plants and technical centres. We have reduced capital expenditures, adjusted the quantity of raw material procurement in collaboration with our customers, and have also renegotiated supplier contracts. Constant engagement with our customers to understand their needs while they resume operations coupled with continuous coordination with government authorities to keep up with changing guidelines has enabled us to operate efficiently and flawlessly.
Also, we have leveraged our engineering and global manufacturing capabilities to make protective face shields for hospitals across the globe. About 85,000 of these face shields have already been manufactured and donated to the medical staff at several hospitals worldwide.
(This interview was published in the Connectivity & Electronics Special July 1, 2020 Issue)