Mapping out Future Vehicle Cockpits

Suppliers enhance navigation, driver infotainment systems in cockpit demos.

Anton van Breemen stands next to TomTom’s digital cockpit demonstrator. TomTom’s first production application of its digital cockpit is with an American-based EV manufacturer. “You can go into one domain – phone, messaging, media, marketplace, navigation – make a change and that change is immediately applied to the other domains,” Breeman said. (Kami Buchholz)

Game-like navigation visuals. Conversational-style voice commands. Contactless biometric sensing. A tidal wave of software code and sensing technologies are being prepped to alter in-vehicle activities.

Two supplier companies, TomTom and Mitsubishi Electric Automotive America (MEAA), recently presented their concept cockpit demonstrators to media at TomTom’s North American corporate offices in Farmington Hills, Michigan. A few highlights:

MEAA’s FlexConnect is an advanced cockpit with a focus on in-cabin and exterior sensing technologies that can be used for autonomous vehicles. (MEAA)

TomTom’s new Orbis map platform, which relies on open and proprietary data sources, its production-ready Premium Map Renderer, and the gaming engine Unity are the foundation for enhanced navigation maps. Roads, buildings and landscape attributes assume a 3D appearance, making the visuals similar to an immersive gaming product experience, TomTom’s senior customer solution manager, Anton van Breemen, told SAE Media.

The driving experience during multi-lane highway travel requires abundant information about other vehicles and the surroundings. TomTom’s map technology leverages data from various sources, including Mitsubishi Electric’s High-Definition Locator, with precision accuracy of plus-or-minus 25 cm (9.8 in) to provide a comprehensive context of the driving scenario.

“With lane-level navigation, we can show your vehicle on the map and color the specific lane to be in for a highway exit, or to avoid road construction, or to avoid a traffic accident, or to get the best traffic flow,” van Breemen said.

AI-powered conversation is also featured. Using Microsoft’s GenAI engine and large language models, TomTom’s demonstrator enables talk between the vehicle driver and an AI-powered counterpart. During a demonstration, van Breemen asked where in-vehicle USB ports are located. An AI voice provided the number and exact location of a specific vehicle model’s outlets.

In-cabin monitoring on MEAA’s FlexConnect includes infrared and thermal cameras, and radar-sensing results fusion, according to MEAA’s Grygorii Maistrenko. (MEAA)

MEAA’s FlexConnect concept demonstrator integrates vehicle functions and applications with Sensory AI. Performing as a smart assistant, the AI-powered communicator enables the driver to talk in a conversational manner with the TomTom navigation system and/or the vehicle’s infotainment system. “You don’t have to train the system, as it’s already advanced enough to understand almost any way you ask it,” said Grygorii Maistrenko, product owner with MEAA’s advanced engineering Filament Labs team.

FlexConnect also provides contactless biometric monitoring and analysis, including pulse rate based on skin color changes caused by periodic blood flow variations detected by infrared cameras, breathing rate changes detected by radar sensors as well as skin temperature changes detected by thermal camera analysis.

If biometric information analysis indicates a serious health change for the driver is occurring or likely imminent, the system could trigger an autonomous vehicle to go into self-driving mode and maneuver the vehicle to the side of the road while alerting emergency services.

The FlexConnect demonstrator also monitors driver distraction by analyzing data from in-vehicle cameras that track whether the driver’s eyes are on the road, on the touchscreen or gazing elsewhere. “For instance, if the system detects drowsiness, it can take action, such as adjusting the cabin temperature or changing the infotainment system to make the driver more alert and focused on driving,” Maistrenko said.