TRW integrates handwriting to automotive HMI

April 03, 2012 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Automotive supplier TRW has unveiled a capacitive touchpad sensor incorporating advanced handwriting recognition software to help drivers and passengers coordinate and operate a variety of functions within the car.

The touchpad improves the human machine interface (HMI) and offers advanced recognition functionality and smaller packaging and greater design freedom within the driver cabin, TRW claims. 

According to the company, handwriting as an additional element in automotive human-machine interaction is user-friendly and brings more comfort to the process of controlling car functions, in particular in the infotainment segment. In addition, handwriting on a touchpad is less distracting to the driver than punching the same data into a keyboard. “The increase in mobile connectivity has inspired us to create a single point of contact between the driver and applications used in the vehicle", said  Frank Koch, advanced engineering manager for TRW's Body Control Systems. "This will not only enhance user-friendliness but also help improve safety. TRW research has shown that the use of in-vehicle handwriting recognition operation reduces driving deviations by 78 percent compared with the alphanumeric keyboard method.” 

The handwriting-recognition touch pad can be used as a standalone product or as a multifunction control panel. The user 'writes' individual characters with a single finger on the touch sensor area and this input is interpreted by software and acknowledged by an audible feedback. 

The touch sensor is able to recognize handwritten numbers, letters and symbols and enables the driver to operate applications such as mobile phones, navigation systems and the radio as well as sending messages, from a single point. It even has the potential of replacing simple switches within the car. 

One of the key features is the system's ability to recognize written inputs and allow an intuitive and fast handling of applications. Since the user is able to input symbols such as Chinese characters without the need of writing aids that normally transcribe those characters into the Latin alphabet, TRW believes that the touchpad technology has strong potential for global vehicle markets. 

The design and location of the multifunction controller is flexible and can be developed to suit customer