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Human Machine Interface (HMI) is not exactly new. In the 1980s a San Jose-based company kick-started the human interface revolution. It was called Synaptics and it was founded by noted scientists Federico Faggin and Carver Mead primarily to research neural networks. The name blended the words ‘synapse’ and ‘electronics’.

Over the subsequent two decades, Synaptics developed pioneering technologies such as touchpads for laptops, touchscreens for smartphones and biometric security.

Fast forward to 2014 and the company acquired Renesas SP (RSP), an established leader in automotive display technology. Synaptics now sees the automotive sector as a growth market for its services which include touch sensors and display technologies.

Sunil Thomas, Vice President, Automotive at Synaptics, explains: “As a leader in touch controller technology, the RSP acquisition enabled Synaptics to accelerate the innovation of single chip integrated touch and display technologies. This advancement became popular with smartphones, and now Synaptic is leading the automotive industry in touch and display driver integration.”

Following two more acquisitions, Synaptics now offers what Thomas calls an “arsenal of human interface with new voice, audio and video solutions.”

Thomas tells us that voice activation is becoming increasingly important for in-vehicle HMI.

“People will ultimately use their voice for texting and interacting with their cars. It will make the car experience more intuitive and efficient. Since Synaptics is the leader in human interfaces including audio and far-field voice technologies, this is an area in which we are researching and developing technology.”


“We look forward to a future of effortless human machine interaction…”

“There will be more displays and larger displays throughout the vehicle. HMI will be used in autonomous vehicles for navigation, business and entertainment purposes. We see the airplane seat as a good analogy.”

“Depending on the driving automation level, an HMI design in an autonomous vehicle should let the user monitor, recognize, and control the car to different extents. HMI needs to provide clear and well-timed signals to inform a driver that the vehicle might need some human interactions to provide a firm foundation for safe autonomous driving.”

We asked Thomas what HMI in vehicles will look like in the future. He responded:

“We envision HMIs to have more and bigger displays with better readability in low light conditions and image processing power. There will also be physical knobs in the displays so interacting with them will be easier and safer. We’re excited to be leading the development of the underlying tech to make all of this possible in the auto industry.”

He concludes: “After three decades of unmatched innovation and market success, Synaptics isn’t letting up. We look forward to a future of effortless human machine interaction, new technologies and opportunities, and continuing to lead the human interface revolution.”

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