A next-generation in-vehicle command center from TRW puts various interior controls and telematics in a single panel. The new packaging approach puts an accent on customized design.
With the first generation of center stacks, "the user interface method was conventional in that the user had to push buttons, rotate knobs, or move sliders to select desired functions," said Carmon McEntaffer, Engineering Manager for Integrated Electronic Control Panel (IECP) and Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Products for TRW Automotive's Body Control Systems North America.
The MY2001 Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country minivans were the first vehicles to showcase TRW's first-generation center stack in which the individual controls and components were designed and manufactured by multiple suppliers and then assembled as one module. "These individual controls each contained the intelligence for its particular function," said McEntaffer.
As an example, TRW Automotive specialists designed and manufactured the manual HVAC control and the passenger airbag/hazard control, assembling the controls with the vents and center stack bezel into one unit before shipping it to the vehicle assembly plants, according to McEntaffer. But TRW's next version of the IECP integrates all of the controls and components into one control panel.
"The next-generation IECP interface options include capacitive touch features, touch-screen displays, conventional push buttons and rotary features, proximity sensors, wireless (i.e., Bluetooth), and direct connections (i.e., USB ports, auxiliary jacks) for nomadic devices such as MP3 and iPod," McEntaffer noted, adding, "The next-generation IECP does allow the user to control handheld devices through both direct and wireless connections. The connection method used is dependent on the chosen device."
From an ease-of-use perspective, the driver can control all HVAC, audio, navigation functions, plus heated seats, hazards, and external device connections. Other miscellaneous features can be integrated into the control panel as well. "Dealing with these devices in a safe and efficient manner with flexibility for the future is the aim of this new system," said Victor Peltola, Director of Sales and Business Development for TRW North America Body Control Systems.
The next-generation IECP melds human-machine interface technologies, lighting, in-mold assembly vents, cabin temperature sensing, HVAC system performance, and other options. "This allows for space, ergonomic, and user-interface optimization while maintaining a safe operating environment for the consumer," said McEntaffer.
Although the packaging size of the next-generation IECP is similar to the current production center stack assemblies, the size can be reduced or enlarged to accommodate the various features. "In terms of depth, the next-generation IECP is considerably smaller than current production center stack assemblies. It can be as lean as 15 mm, although feature content and stylized surface curvatures can impact this depth," McEntaffer noted.
TRW Automotive will take the IECP into production later this year in Europe via two vehicle platforms. The system is slated to reach the Americas in 2010. "IECP technology represents a quantum leap forward for the art and science of vehicle interior design and control functions," said Dan Mittelbrun, Senior Manager of Product Planning for TRW Automotive.