Achieving safe driving by 21st Century instrument panel design.
Integrated Control System Development Division
Oike has been lecturing on three driver distractions that hinder focus on driving, causing the driver to pay less attention. The final distraction takes place when the driver takes his/her hands off the steering wheel. “The third approach is to minimize unstable posture and inaccurate operation when the driver is processing or using information whilst driving. We use Commander Control for center display operation instead of a touchscreen.”
“The reason we chose Commander Control is that it offers three benefits. Firstly, Commander Control enables easy operation in a stable posture. The device is positioned in a place where the driver’s hand is closer to the gearshift which is a more natural position,with the elbow resting on the armrest. This stabilizes the drivers posture and allows driving without tensing the body.”
“Secondly, Commander Control can be operated without looking. The device has 5 buttons, and this number comes from The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two, and it’s designed for easy and simple operation.”
“Last but not least, Commander Control is designed for accurate operation. Mechanical feeling of turning dial provides feedback to the driver, and an intuitive screen display enables reliable navigation. Those three benefits are not offered by a touchscreen, so we believe that Commander Control plays a critical role in ensuring safe information operation during driving.”
After listening to Oike talk about how Mazda minimizes the three driver distractions, we naturally came up with a question – how did Mazda’s approach transform actual driving? Oike answers, with confidence ringing in his voice. “We conducted an evaluation on the success rate of certain operations, length of time when the drivers eyes were taken off the road, and the degree of the steering wheel shaking during non-steering operation.The results showed that the Commander Control was superior to touchscreen in every case. The results proved that we took the right approach. However we are yet to finalise the study on how the numerical data translates to the optimal case. That means we need to further refine and evolve our approach.”
We have prepared a cockpit where vehicle running stability comes first and foremost, equipped with HMI that enables the driver to access loads of information while driving safely. Mazda calls it “Heads-up Cockpit”, and the cockpit has been introduced to all new-generation products since the launch of the CX-5. “To us HMI is all about a conversation between the driver and his/her car. The driver communicates what he/she wants to do, and their car responds accordingly. There’s a mutual understanding between car and driver with quick, accurate and interactive exchange. Our role is to enhance the quality of this exchange.”
Future vision: HMI that understands and caters to driver’s needs.
It’s impressive that Mazda makes sure that the Jinba Ittai concept lies at the heart of its HMI. After all, Mazda is all about “Celebrate Driving” or the exhilaration of driving. Creating a solid foundation to let driver “Celebrate Driving” is a key mission of cockpit design.
How does Oike envision the evolution of Mazda’s HMI? “Our future direction is to make our cars properly understand what the driver and their passengers are thinking, and consistently offer support in a subtle way. That maximizes the driver’s abilities. To me that’s an ideal driving environment. On the other hand”, continues Oike, “taking advantage of state-of-the-art technologies to create a safer, more convenient system can result in an increasingly complex HMI and that’s what I call putting the cart before the horse. While we are committed to evolving HMI, knowing the right amount of essential information and functions is just as important.” Oike ended his lecture with self-admonition, saying that knowing humans inside out is critical to making human-centric cars, yet he should never pretend that he understands humans a hundred percent because pretense would “distract” him from pursuing the right direction and make him develop a system that’s more than a driver needs.