On self-driving vehicles, besides an appropriate software that controls the vehicle, straightforward human-machine interaction is also crucial. The driver has to have clear control and feedback over the system during the entire operation time, not only for comfort and ergonomic reasons but even for safety purposes. This is why the Vehicle Dynamics and Control Team invested efforts in the last eight months in developing an HMI for the BME Automated Drive’s self-driving BMW M2 Competition test platform. The goal of the project was to develop a touchscreen-based graphical user interface (GUI) that would enable the seamless operation of automated drifting (powerslide) functions even for unprofessional personnel too. The written software is the pioneer for later, integrated GUIs that make communication with the car and operator easy and also incorporate real-time application implementation, sensor data acquisition, and perception systems.
The starting point was a Toradex Apalis NXP i.MX8 SoM, which was inserted into a Toradex Ixora carrier board. This is one of the most up-to-date hardware out on the market for premium car HMI design. For the visualization, an 10” LVDS touch screen was chosen to be integrated onto the board. On the software side, we chose Qt, which is one of the most advanced cross-platform frameworks for the design of GUIs in PC, mobile, embedded, and automotive environments.
After setting up the development toolchain, the hardware components were configured. For this first release, a CAN communication protocol was developed that could guarantee the interaction between the real-time application, which was implemented on a dSpace mAutoBox rapid prototyping unit. After the inclusion of a real-time operating system and function on the Toradex-NXP hardware, the CAN link and the mAbx can be omitted, which is targeted in the next steps of the work. With the above setup, the user interface and experience (UI & UX) were developed. Finally, the hardware parts were installed in a housing as a compact unit and mounted in the cockpit, as seen in the figures. A special thanks goes to the MouldTech Team for 3D printing the housing with one of their polymer printers.
As the result of continuous and conjoint development of the GUI and the self-drifting function software, the UI unit could be tested at the ZalaZONE automotive proving ground. With the touchscreen application, not only the automated modes can be handled, but the steering and engine can also be operated. Moreover, seamless change between manual and automated modes and safety features are also covered.
The GUI has four main menu points, which present short descriptions, safety precautions, and controls for all the features. This new development of the Vehicle Dynamics and Control Team could provide the exciting experience of automated drifting for everyone who sits in the car in a safe and straightforward way. Additionally, it opens the doors for real-time application of our functions in a production-ready embedded platform.