One of the biggest challenges companies face when it comes to automotive HMI development is adapting features and components for different areas of the world. Understanding regional differences in China, the world’s largest car manufacturer, is particularly challenging, as the Chinese automotive ecosystem is vast, advanced and ever-evolving. In 2019, China produced nearly 26 million vehicles, accounting for about 28% of total vehicles produced worldwide. To help automotive companies understand this influential market, Star researched HMI regional differences, trends and use cases. We are excited to share our findings in our latest report, “Understanding Car HMI specifics in China.”
Chinese consumers place high value on technology and view connectivity as a given. Thus, automotive HMI technology is of growing importance to OEMs and tech giants, including Alibaba and Tencent. These digital innovators are collaborating with automotive companies in interesting ways to advance HMI development and create cohesive, personalized in-car experiences. Our research explores these collaborations and uncovers seven key trends that are shaping automotive HMI design in China. Here is a glimpse at our findings.
On the forefront of multimodal HMI adoption
Multimodal HMI development combines multiple modes of interaction – for example, voice, touch, knob and face recognition – to create a more flexible and intuitive experience for drivers and passengers. The Chinese market is on the forefront of new communication modes and integrates them in creative ways. XPENG G3, an electric compact SUV, has a fin-shaped apparatus affixed to its roof that can lift up and spin around. The “fin” is actually a camera that you can control from within the vehicle using your phone or hand gestures. Make a peace sign to take a photo, or the “OK” symbol to return the camera to its forward-facing position.
Face recognition unveiled in China in 2018 and is also available in a growing number of models, including LeapMotor S01, Chery EXEED TX, WEY VV6, WM Motor’s EX5, and Geely Xing Yue. In the future, more models will use face scanning as part of vehicle HMI, particularly for payment authentication.
Say hello to my little friend
In-car companion robots (cobots) have taken off faster in Asia than in most Western markets. Many Chinese car models include a voice-activated in-car assistant that adds value to the driving experience, as well as a “cool” factor. Automotive companies gain user trust by designing cobots that are non-threatening looking, or even cute, and using friendly words like “companion” and “guardian” to describe the technology. Done right, these cobots are the embodiment of the automotive HMI and a one-stop-shop for controlling nearly every element of a vehicle.
Our automotive HMI report includes descriptions and photos of a number of intelligent assistants on the Chinese market. For example, Hozon U’s AI assistant, named “小You” (Xiao You), uses advanced language processing capabilities, biometrics and deep learning to engage in natural-sounding conversations. Capabilities include fatigue warning, smart home control, and much more. AIWAYS Intelligent Companion Technology allows users to create a personalized virtual assistant using photos, AI and 3D technology, and to personalize the assistant’s voice. In other words, you can create an in-car companion that looks like you, your best friend or your celebrity crush.
There’s an app for that
Our research highlights dazzling displays and creative in-car entertainment options that make HMI design and development in China unlike other areas of the world. Many HMI designs embed popular apps in the car dashboard and integrate voice capabilities so drivers can use them hands-free. Popular apps include global services, like Facebook, and ones unique to the Chinese market, like the popular messaging app WeChat. For example, the Tencent Auto Intelligent platform includes a custom, voice-enabled version of WeChat for automobiles. Leading Ideal announced it will offer WeChat in its vehicles via an OTA update. You can then activate the WeChat app by pressing a button on the steering wheel and send or receive messages through voice commands.
The future of automotive HMI trends in China
The report also explores how the Covid-19 pandemic impacted HMI design, for example, by placing an even greater onus on air purification tools, accessible via vehicle HMI. Within the next decade, Intelligent Connected Vehicles (ICV) and autonomous driving features are expected to achieve mass adoption in China, which will lead to increased integration and new automotive HMI technology, including safety features built to support autonomous driving and infotainment functions designed to transform driving into an unforgettable experience.