Magna Intelligent Surface Technology: Like controlling your car with an iPhone

Magna Intelligent Surface Technology: Like controlling your car with an iPhone

Imagine starting your car with a simple swipe of your finger. Sounds cool, doesn’t it? That’s because it is, and here’s the good news: the technology is headed to your car.

One of the more eye-catching aspects of futuristic and sci-fi-inspired technology has easily been the ability to activate a myriad of functions with a touch, a swipe, or flick of your fingertips. Now, parts supplier Magna is bringing the future back, so to speak, with the development of what it calls Intelligent Surface Technology. If you’ve heard of a little device called the iPhone then think of that and you’re on the right track.

Magna begins with “Touchskin,” a three-dimensional surface panel that replaces the standard buttons, knobs, and dials you might find inside a typical car cabin with capacitive controls that help provide a fluid and unprecedented level of intuitiveness to existing onboard systems.

Controlling Magna’s Touchskin can be likened to that of a computer mouse, but remains in a fixed position. Functions that would normally require the driver or passenger to undertake some sort of physical or analog input can now be achieved with a simple swipe or roll of a finger around the centrally placed tool. In addition to starting the car’s engine with a swipe of a finger, drivers could also unlock the doors with a similar motion, adjust the vehicles mirrors, or shift gears, all with a simple flick of their finger.

Wedded to that system is a Clearmelt panel which features a self-healing, glossy surface allowing nicks and scratches to self-heal over time. But while Magna is the primary name heading up the technology, the various components are actually being developed by nine different companies: Plastic Electronics, Engel Mould Technologies, Schöfer, Magna Exteriors and Interiors, Hueck, Niebling, Votteler, Hennecke Polyurethane, and formquadrat.

Magna Touchskin

The whole system integrates via Magna’s exclusive Integrated Device Molding Procedure (IDMP) and tethers a smartphone to the vehicle wirelessly, and without the need of a Bluetooth or internet connection. Instead the IDMP utilizes upcoming industry mandated cellular Qi standards, which Magna contends is safer and can’t be hacked. Additionally, this enables the transmitter coil in the phone to connect via a “near-field” connection and allows for wireless charging.

Magna can even shape the interface’s electrical innerds using formable copper foil found inside the console’s plastic cover, so limitations regarding shape are virtually non-existent.

And while the technology might sound complex, Magna attests that the opposite is true. In fact, the system actually reduces parts complexity, assembly time, and component costs, and even carries an increased safety component by centrally placing the control interface closer to the driver.

In an age where touch-screens and capacitive controls are as ubiquitous as the smart devices they’re attached to, it seems only fitting this type of technology would begin creeping further and further into our lives. Coincidentally, the automobile is a perfect place for such implementation, which is exactly why Magna is shopping around its Intelligent Surface Technology to various car manufacturers.

Magna expects various components of its IST system to being implementation into various automotive applications by 2014.

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