Called the I3—which stands for interface, integration, and ingenuity—the vehicle includes "industry-first technologies for vehicle interiors," Beda Bolzenius, Vice President and President of Johnson Controls' Automotive Experience business, said during press days at the recent 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
From the driver's perspective, I3's instrument cluster presents data in 3-D depth. "By projecting digital information over analog instrumentation, the end result is compelling HMI—an approach we refer to as Human Machine Interaction," said Rodger Eich, Studio Manager for Johnson Controls' Electronics Design Studio, North America.
The unique cluster presentation means vehicle speed, navigation, and other information is available simultaneously. "We're bridging the gap between an automotive heritage of analog information and adding new technologies via reconfigurable displays, which allow for more content in the same amount of space as a conventional cluster but done in a way that minimizes driver distraction," said Eich.
Vehicle interior interfacing with mobile devices—such as cell phones, portable navigational units, and MP3 players—is another focal point of the company's approach to HMI. "A key advantage is that a driver doesn't have to find and press tiny keys on a mobile device since they are activated through a multi-controller or voice recognition," said Bolzenius.
Portable electronic devices can be stowed in the I3's center armrest. Wired and wireless communications provide a seamless in-vehicle link-up. "This allows the driver quick, convenient access to various external or built-in device features, such as text messaging, music, and software updates," Bolzenius said. The vehicle's rotary encoder device, located just in front of the center console's covered armrest, permits the user to choose which handheld mobile electronics product is being tapped for in-vehicle use.
Mobile device selections are displayed on the vehicle's user-interface screen. To select an option, the rotary encoder is pushed down. By pulling up the device, the user can continue to browse options. "We're amplifying everything for a driving context so the intuitive interface process has both visual, audio, and tactile feedback," said Eich.
The monochrome display for HVAC "includes all conventional air-conditioning controls and reduces the need for about 20 mechanical buttons and knobs," said Bolzenius. I3's HVAC display, located on the instrument panel below the graphic user-interface screen, is "a segmented LCD that is LED-backlit with a built-in touch interface," said Mark Tierney, Johnson Control's Director of Business Development, Electronics Division.
Thin seats are another feature of the I3. "The thin profile is enabled by our VT Foam product. It is used in the rear seats, ensuring better vibration damping, long-term durability, and optimal long-term comfort," said Bolzenius. By pushing a button, the system automatically puts the rear seat in a split-seat, full-seat, or an invisible-seat position. All seats in the I3 have the supplier's in-production riACT anti-whiplash system in which the front head restraint section moves forward and upward to reduce the distance between the head and head restraint during a rear-end collision.
Floor rails between the front and rear seats enable an array of stow configurations. These rails "are cargo attachment points, as opposed to being a part of the seat structure or the mounting points for the seats," said Eich. The floor rails have different modules that can be added or removed for a floor-based cargo-management system.
I3's interior also showcases a new surface technology referred to as polypropylene thin film. The material was used "to make the door panels and floor console. It enhances the high-end ambience of the interior, providing high-quality door panel and floor console surfaces that are scratch- and mark-resistant," said Bolzenius.