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Mapping what’s next for in-car navigation experiences

March 24, 2021 in Industry | 7 min. read
POV of being behind the wheel and seeing a map with the route and desired end destination flashing.
POV of being behind the wheel and seeing a map with the route and desired end destination flashing.

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We’re teaming up with HERE Technologies, the world’s leading location platform that collects data from over 100,000 sources and powers maps in over 150 million vehicles, to reimagine in-car experiences. Check out our shared vision for the future of embedded automotive human-machine interfaces (HMIs) in a new demo made with Unity and featuring HERE 3D city-data. 

We believe every screen – and how people interact with these screens – can benefit from real-time 3D technology. Unity’s real-time 3D brings disjointed HMI design and development workflows together to create visually compelling, immersive HMI experiences in cars and other industrial products.

We’re working with the broader HMI ecosystem to extend the power of this technology everywhere to the benefit of both creators and consumers. Following our collaborations with Elektrobit and NXP Semiconductors, we’re teaming up with HERE Technologies, the leading provider of map content and location-based services to the automotive industry. 

To provide a glimpse of our shared vision of the automotive user experience, we’re debuting a futuristic, wide-screen demo of an embedded in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system. It showcases our combined capabilities by integrating a 3D map of San Francisco from HERE Premier 3D Cities data with Unity.

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The demo has been tested on the Qualcomm Snapdragon SA8155, a popular automotive System on Chip (SoC). This prototype serves as inspiration for a world where automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can create more immersive infotainment systems that blend 3D location data with dynamic, high-end design capabilities.

“The goal of our collaboration with Unity is to meet our customers’ desire for a more stimulating in-car navigation experience,” said Jorgen Behrens, Chief Product Officer at HERE Technologies. “Unity’s robust 3D rendering engine makes HERE 3D city data, route guidance and navigation look impressive, providing a rich and immersive in-dash experience to the driver.”

The Unity advantage in HMI

Images of the current HMI design

Current HMI design workflows are rife with inefficiencies and pain points. Typical processes start with a designer’s concepts and guides, which are then interpreted by remote tier 1 integration engineers. After OEM design review, it goes back to the designer for design review and changes – sometimes taking days or weeks per cycle. Collaboration occurs across multiple tools with limited interoperability, resulting in incomplete and inefficient implementations of concepts as well as lackluster graphics performance. Only a small portion of design concepts and visuals are able to make their way to mass production.

Unity’s real-time 3D unlocks more efficient HMI workflows, bringing user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design and development together in one end-to-end experience. Visually compelling, highly interactive concepts, mockups, and final designs appear and perform as they would in target HMI hardware (chipsets and screens). 

This real-time workflow enables design and engineering teams to collaborate in a rapid, agile way and seamlessly transition from initial prototypes to final production implementation. Vision becomes reality faster and without the many compromises, teams typically have to make along the way. 

In comparison with other real-time 3D engines, Unity’s runtime scalability enables designers and HMI engineers to create one HMI system yet be able to deploy to both high-end and low-end SoCs, saving OEMs millions of dollars when working with multiple carline variants.

Making of the demo

To create this demo, HERE’s 3D Concepts & Prototyping team in its Vertical Products division leveraged Unity’s extensibility and Unity Scripting API to create a custom, simplified version of the Unity Editor. The beauty of Unity is that anyone can tailor it to the way their teams work; in this case, HERE’s team reconfigured Unity to better support HMI design processes, removing components in the inspector or hierarchy that were not required and creating a simplified design-focused UI and workflow.

Screenshot of editor with image of person driving car POV and map above
HERE’s 3D Concepts & Prototyping team created a custom version of the Unity Editor to support codeless HMI design workflows

To build this proof-of-concept demo, HERE’s team created UI elements from familiar content creation tools as well as Unity prefabs. Teams could drag-and-drop these pre-prepared elements, including HERE Premier 3D Cities content, into the HMI design. The team also integrated samples of HERE’s location data, such as routing and weather, and point-of-interest (POI) indications, such as gas stations and restaurants. Map content was styled and enhanced with location-specific animatable objects and Unity prefabs, and used for navigation, situational awareness views as well as location-based services (LBS). 

Person in car POV and map with route and outline of city on left side of image

With the custom Unity Editor featured in the demo, HERE’s designers were able to use Unity with no prior experience. They used Unity for UI logic and all interactive elements, rendering, visual effects, and animations. 

Person in car POV and map with route and birds eye outline of city on right side of image

Unity provided the flexibility to create UIs and 3D map visual configurations in multiple styles and interactively adjust them by time of day.

Person looking at gas and speedometer POV on left side of image, birds eye view with a marked out route to desired location on right side of image.

Thanks to Unity, they could also continually test the performance of their design on their target display and make adjustments to rapidly iterate the design. This “what you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) development shows how OEM teams can shorten design cycle times and greatly reduce development costs.

The future looks bright for HMI design and development when combining the awesome power and features of the Unity engine and HERE’s rich automotive-grade location data and services.

Want more information? Get in touch with a Unity expert to explore bringing Unity and HERE into your HMI projects.

March 24, 2021 in Industry | 7 min. read

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