Novares’s third-generation demonstrator aims to ease transition between normal and autonomous driving.
By Murray Slovick, Contributing Editor
Last week in Paris, at Station F, said to be the world’s biggest startup campus with an entire entrepreneurial ecosystem under one roof, the French company Novares unveiled its third-generation demonstration car, dubbed Nova Car #1.
Based on a BMW X1 SUV, Nova Car #1 showcased new features to enhance self-driving and connectivity, boasting a cockpit designed for autonomous operation, a flexible 360-deg. augmented reality rear/side-view display, and LED roof bars that use lighting to convey information.
Connected cars need to have more and larger displays integrated into their dashboards, which is a challenge for manufacturers in terms of design integration. Autonomous driving (from advanced driver-assistance system, or ADAS, level 2 to level 4/5) brings further challenges in cockpit design, especially for transitioning between normal and autonomous driving modes. All users need clear, visible information as to which mode the car is driving in, with markedly different displays, seat and steering wheel positions, as well as effective lighting to ensure that they’re clearly aware of the different driving modes.
Both ADAS and autonomous driving rely on systems for object detection and characterization, lane detection, critical situation analysis, and driving action decisions, as opposed to human drivers who traditionally rely exclusively on vision through windows and mirrors.
Revolutionizing Driving Vision
But that may be changing, even in advance of cars driving themselves. The Novares Nova Car #1 prototype employs exterior revolving mirrors and cameras with an integrated flexible screen to display 360-degree views.
The system, dubbed Flex View, was developed in partnership with flexible electronics solutions provider Flexenable. Flex View’s rear view OLCD (organic liquid-crystal display) supports augmented reality (AR) together with the video-camera feed. An LCD is used, the company points out, because organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) don’t meet automotive aging requirements.
The 360-deg. AR system brings reassurance to drivers in normal driving mode, with all-around vision of the sides and rear of the vehicle. In autonomous driving mode, all passengers have access to the same information. The flexible display is made with a plastic substrate that can be angled toward the driver or passenger seat, with a bending radius of almost 15 mm.
For Nova Car #1, Novares also developed new LED roof bars that use lighting to convey information. In parking mode, a blue flashing light makes it easy for a user to find the car. When loading luggage on the roof bars, green, orange, and red lights indicate the weight of the load. When driving, blue lights indicate that the driver has chosen autonomous driving mode and orange signals warn that the vehicle is turning.
Other innovative features of Nova Car#1 include:
- Touch ‘N Play: This feature allows users to place shortcuts on the dashboard for easy access to their favorite driving commands or internet-based applications. The touchpads are housed in decorative bezels. The user defines a location on the bezel and assigns a chosen command or application to the location, which is indicated by a marker. By putting his or her finger on the marker, the user runs the command or the application. The shortcut can be added, moved, and removed on demand, e.g. for car sharing, and each user can customize his or her own HMI and “clean” it for the next user. Similarly, fleet managers can add special commands for assistance calling or display the location of car return stations on the GPS navigation system.
- “Hi 5!” Door: The user puts his hand to the door handle and a lighted door flap opens. If the user detection system fails, a key system is still available. Door seals are used to bring out the door slightly when the user’s hand approaches. This feature can be set for new mobility uses, such as unlocking the rear door for car-sharing and rentals.
- Touch ‘N Go: This is an inner door handle that opens via touch and includes an integrated ventilation system, providing heating everywhere in the car. The handle works electrically in normal times, but it can also be used manually in case of emergency.
- Touch ‘N Feel: When the car engine is off, the surface of the display device is completely black. When the start button is pressed, backlighting comes on and reveals touch commands. A vibrating signal gives a touch-sensitive “haptic” feedback to the driver and allows him/her to keep their eyes on the road. An algorithm provides the customized haptic feedback on demand and creates a dedicated haptic signature.
- Snake ’N Light: This isa light pipe that uses optical fibers to provide “stripes” for mood lighting. A single LED light source is enough to illuminate the full-length of the pipe without hot points. The easily customizable design makes this suitable for manufacturers to adapt to complex shapes.
- SpaceSaver Cooler: A thermal conductive plastic water-charged air cooler is integrated into the air ducts, enabling the reduction of CO2emissions by lowering the air temperature. Standard heat exchangers are made of aluminum. Novares claims that its plastic heat exchanger achieves the same performance as an aluminum heat exchanger but is lighter and gives engineers more design freedom. The thermal conductive plastic heat exchanger allows for integration into complex surfaces, which also saves space and provides greater efficiency.
To create Nova Car #1, Novares collaborated with prototype integrators (Genaris, Etud Integral), new technology partners (Quad), and startups (FlexEnable, Actronika, Efi Lightning).