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A New Paradigm for the Eco Design of Car Cabin Components

Alves, C. ; Custódio, T. ; Silva, P. S. ; Silva, J. S. ; Tomé, G. T. ; Falcão, G.

A New Paradigm for the Eco Design of Car Cabin Components, Proc World Congress of Smart Materials World Congress of Smart Materials WCSM, Barcelona, Spain, Vol. , pp. - , March, 2021.

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Buttons in an automotive environment are typically located on the vehicle's center console to control window demisting, interior temperature, or multimedia systems, or on doors to open or close windows, handle rearview mirrors, and door close/open controls.
This work proposes a new concept based on the migration of commands to the user’s seat. The paradigm shift allows users, who soon will be transported in a purely autonomous driving mode (a reality in 2020 implemented till TRL 4), to control the functionalities of the passenger compartment with seats misaligned, differently from the traditional front-oriented parallel position, eventually turned over to each other during the voyage.
In this context, this work proposes a new design that reduces the number of components from 25 down to 1, supported by a more ecological production process, developed with environmentally friendlier polymers (without the need for high mechanical resistance), less assembly time, longer life cycle and higher recycling efficiency. In addition, the proposed adaptive technology allows "the same plastic piece" to be used in different vehicles or models having more or fewer functionalities incorporated since these depend exclusively on the programming of sensors coupled to the plastic – a term that we coined as SmartPlastic. To support this technology, we investigated and developed a new system composed of capacitive sensors aided by a minimum intelligent circuitry and respective low-cost hardware fully compatible with current control systems.
The additional advantage lies in the final cost of the newly generated touch system which, by reducing the necessary number of pieces for assembling several buttons to (literally) one, is similar to that of a current equivalent system produced for state-of-the-art vehicles. Also, the design of the seat has been conceived to incorporate all these technologies within a novel and very appealing smooth and minimalist style adaptable to future self-driving cars, including the capability of adding a substantial number of new functionalities.