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Putting Innovation in the Driving Seat: Our Automotive Journey

In-Cabin Monitoring
Smart Steering Wheel
Autonomous Driving

The automotive industry has always been a cradle of innovation, with R&D investments across the sector increasing every year. Here’s a quick tour of how Neonode technology has been transforming the in-vehicle experience worldwide for over a decade.

The automotive sector is a shining example of how technology can be used to improve the day-to-day lives of billions of people. Vehicle manufacturers from all corners of the market continuously embrace innovative ways to make the driving experience safer, and it’s no wonder.

As the number of vehicles on the road continues to rise, unfortunately, so does the number of road fatalities. Every year, 1.35 million people are killed in collisions, and vehicle manufacturers are increasingly leaning on technology to reverse this trend. For the trailblazers, driver and passenger comfort and pleasure is also key to differentiating their brand in a highly competitive market.

For more than 10 years, we’ve been developing technologies to meet these needs. Today, almost five million vehicles on the market come with Neonode technology integrated into their systems, from the hyper-luxury Koenigsegg, to the iconic London black cab, and the world renowned Volvo. This demand isn’t slowing down. Here’s a whistle-stop tour of our history, and future, in the automotive industry.

London Electric Vehicles Company (LEVC)

The infotainment era

Around 20 years ago, touchscreen mobile phones went mainstream. Neonode’s touch technology played a big role in their development. The same touch technology was also a perfect fit for other applications – like tablets and printers – and soon, everyone was tapping away on touch screens.

Thankfully, the automotive sector doesn’t miss a trick, and fortunately, neither do we. After the smartphone revolution, the industry introduced smart, in-vehicle infotainment (or entertainment) HMI screens and our tried and tested technology was a natural component choice.

In 2012, a leading automotive manufacturer approached us to supply touch technology for their infotainment displays, and we developed custom designs for their future vehicle generations. Today, Neonode technology can still be found in every car that rolls off their production line. After this, other big names in automotive followed suit, and as in-vehicle entertainment screens took off, our footprint in the industry widened.

Koenigsegg Regera

Koenigsegg Regera fitted with Neonode Touch Technology.

Smart steering for a safer drive

In 2014, we broke new ground and partnered up with Autoliv, the world’s leading automotive safety supplier to develop a never-before-seen solution: the smart steering wheel. After an explosion of buttons and touchscreen controls, the goal was to create something that allowed drivers to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.

This next-generation smart steering wheel uses a combination of machine learning and optical touch sensors to create a safer driving experience. The whole rim of the steering wheel is intelligent, detecting where the driver’s hands are and adjusting the interactive zone accordingly so they can do things like answer a call or adjust the volume without taking their hands off the wheel or using mechanical switches. In-built LED lights give the driver the necessary visual cues and allow them to react with a simple tap or stroke, even with gloves. Interactive trackpads on the steering wheel can also be programed to feature controls or information of the driver’s choice. And last, but not least: it will also immediately engage autopilot if the driver’s hands are taken off the wheel. Who knew a steering wheel could be so clever?

In-cabin monitoring: a seriously future-proof solution

Figures show that up to 80% of all crashes involve some sort of driver distraction. As a result, it’s no surprise that driver monitoring systems are set to become mandatory in the imminent future due to new EU and US regulations.

Since 2017, Neonode has been investing heavily in developing driver and in-cabin monitoring technology, and in 2020 we officially launched our remote sensing solutions after years of development and testing. Based on our MultiSensing software platform, the solution can monitor and track both the driver and passengers irrespective of vehicle size, from buses to compact cars. The platform is built upon a sophisticated framework that uses both rule-based and machine learning algorithms to process vehicle data and images from one or multiple cameras to detect things like driver distraction and drowsiness, or where the driver’s hands are positioned. With unique three-dimensional tracking and identification, it also has the capacity to understand the independent actions and interactions of not only the driver, but all individual passengers, regardless of where they are positioned in the vehicle.

But the real beauty of this solution is how it’s built and the flexibility to scale. Our solution is more power-efficient than others with smaller microcontrollers (MCU), less memory requirement and lower resolution cameras. As a platform, it enables our customers to buy a turnkey solution - or be an active part of its development and eventually add their own functionality. This architecture means the functions and features can perpetually be expanded to include other safety and convenience features, for example, adaptive deployment of airbags or providing warnings for children or items left behind.

In addition, other approaches rely on real-world data to train machine learning models – which comes with a very hefty price tag, lower accuracy, and long lead times. At Neonode, we create our own synthetic data to train our models and eliminate these problems while at the same time enabling functions that simply aren’t feasible through traditional means.

The automotive industry is a natural operating area for multi-sensing technology, but due to its modular structure, this same technology will soon be used in other environments such as elevators, self-ordering, retail stores and warehouses.

But that’s just the beginning

The automotive industry continues to be a fertile ground for innovation, making it a key priority for Neonode. We’re now looking at the fast adoption of using the windsheild for the projection of information - Keep your eyes open for the launch of our head-up display features coming soon. We will continue to push the boundaries with our partners and customers to make the in-vehicle experience safer, and smoother, for everyone.

Want to learn more?

Contact us today to learn more about our customized automotive solutions.