People trust technology to follow the rules but not to make critical decisions or judgements. This is particularly true when there are life or death decisions in play. There is undoubtedly a need to bring out the next generation human-machine interface (HMI) with the advent of autonomous driving. Automakers need to develop completely new interactive designs that build trust in the vehicle’s capabilities.


The following chart helps us to understand the role of HMI in facilitating driver engagement, car-to-driver communication and car-to-driver takeover of control.



L0: No Autonomous Functions
L1: Autonomy of one primary control function
L2: Autonomy of two or more primary control functions
L3: Limited self-driving: in some situations
L4: Full self-driving or human driving

Source: IHS Markit


Today, autonomous driving technology is not ready to handle all driving conditions and needs the driver to take control under various circumstances. Hence, HMI and User Interface are crucial to ensure driver’s contextual awareness. The driver should be informed and engaged enough (through the design) to quickly take control back as, and when, it is needed. Also, given that every automaker has access to similar quality hardware, software and sensors, HMI becomes the unique feature that they have to truly differentiate their brand.


Automakers need to create the HMI that allows a transparent and co-operative approach where car, environment and driver act as agents in getting from point A to B. In the collaborative approach, the drivers and the vehicle should be able to work towards the same goal, exchanging information on their respective strengths, weaknesses and (un-) certainty, show their performance limits, their state and also give each other feedback. With fully automated vehicles, the industry has  yet to define how information should be communicated.


Automakers need to define the HMI that provides a means for communication between the driver and the vehicle (two-way) (multimodal, haptic, visual, etc.). Developing such an HMI system ultimately falls into a wider range of challenges that the industry needs to conquer in order to bring autonomous vehicles to public roads, such as making moral life or death decisions when an accident is imminent.


The current models of engagement most automotive OEMs have when it comes to HMI development can be summarized into two types. 


  • A traditional Tier 1 HW and SW solution, where the OEM starts from scratch every 3 years when delivering their IVI system, each time having to retest functionality like Tuner and Media Player as it is from a new supplier.

  • Owning their own HMI platform and framework, that requires massive investment along with high cost of ownership as they have to build and manage the framework in addition to actually owning the HMI and UX.

Both models make it either difficult or too expensive to sustain continuous innovation as compared to those used in the Consumer Electronics market. Thus, the automotive industry needs a new way to own and continuously enhance HMI, by leveraging a pre-established platform that allows it to build the HMI once (for media, BT, tuner etc.), and then innovate it into new areas.  This new method compares to previous models that require continuous efforts to re-integrate the same features onto new hardware or software platforms for every new product lifecycle.

In order to realize the dream of building completely autonomous cars by 2025, Automakers should or select or build an HMI development tool with these top 10 characteristics. 


  1. Permits cross-platform HMI development easily: Linux, Windows, QNX and etc.

  2. Allows multiple HMIs to be developed based on the same state and/or business logic hence maximizing re-use

  3. Has a single code base that allows a very different HMI look and feel, while sharing the same Middleware

  4. Has the ability to create amazing and intuitive experiences for all users

  5. Allows delivery of all applications as separate packages (libraries)

  6. Provides the capability to easily port to new Middleware platforms

  7. Has an unlimited number of synchronized displays and resolutions

  8. Uses all standard IPC and Network channels for interaction

  9. Allows for the architecture to be optimized for IVI solutions (booting, runtime performance)

  10. Provides the ability to modify Low Level Architecture (process decompositions, business logic, state management, etc.) without High Level Architecture changes


If done properly, this paradigm shift in HMI development is not only possible, it will also help to increase productivity and speed up time to market, simplify and future-proof automaker’s technology strategy and streamline their workflow thus reducing costs.  It will also help us to reach the goal of fully autonomous vehicles that save lives and allow more efficient use of our time while on a journey – whether it is for pleasure or for work.


Read more on how HARMAN is assisting Auto OEMs create connected, multi-screen, adaptive and secure In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) systems through its  Automated UI Development Suite for Automotive.