Samsung owned Harman preparing a connected cockpit for cars of the future

By Swapnil Mathur | Updated 7 Jul 2019
Samsung owned Harman preparing a connected cockpit for cars of the future
  • A look at Samsung's vision for the digital cockpit for the cars of the future

On a trip to Samsung’s facilities in Korea, we got a chance to experience one of Samsung’s prototype digital cockpits for cars. Samsung had shown this off as a prototype at CES 2019, but at the time, the setup was outside of a car and installed in parts. What we saw at Samsung headquarters in Korea was a fully installed and mostly functioning system and it’s a pretty exciting one.

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The digital cockpit consists of a number of new technologies that replace the traditional ones. For starters, the entire front of the dash had displays installed. The prototype we got a demo of had multiple displays fused together, one half being OLED and the other half LCD, in order to show how each would look if installed in a real car. Under the displays, on the centre console is another display flanked by two large knobs. This third display is the control centre and is what allows you to navigate the numerous options available in a car with a digital cockpit. This display is flanked by two large dials that have their own OLED displays in the centre.

samsung connected cockpit concept

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Samsung Connected Cockpit concept

In addition to all the displays, the digital cockpit concept also replaces the traditional side-view mirrors with cameras, that display real-time imagery onto the displays in the centre console. In addition to the side-view mirrors, Samsung also incorporated a camera in the front, one in the back and one just above the rear-view mirror that gives you a view of the people in the back seat.

The system we saw was only a prototype and running an interface that looked rather similar to Samsung’s OneUI. However, we were told that the digital cockpit’s software would be based on Android, but the UI teams for the car’s user interface and the OneUI design teams are completely different, and that the UI may look very different once this system makes it to market. This would be done keeping I mind that the UI has to be easy to use while driving and not be a distraction.

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In addition to the displays on the centre console, the connected cockpit concept also envisions two more displays in the back, as a means of “entertaining the kids.” Both the front and the rear of the car come equipped with docks for Samsung Dex. Samsung says that families could use Dex to enable gaming and entertainment in the car for kids. We don’t expect people to actually do any work in the car using Samsung’s Dex.

Samsung Dex will be integrated into the connected cockpit

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Samsung Dex will be integrated into the connected cockpit

The connected cockpit is expected to take advantage of 5G as and when it rolls out. The demonstration we received didn’t include any 5G capabilities, but there were some really cool tricks. For example, the connected cockpit can store “rider profiles” which will change the settings of each seat according to the rider. This includes settings like seat height, cabin temperature, and even pull up the right music on the entertainment system. Navigating the multitude of settings on the connected cockpit is enabled through the centre console’s touchscreen and two knobs that flank it. The knobs can be set to be “contextually aware,” meaning they will automatically change to adjust whatever setting has been pulled up on the console. There will also be Bixby integration, allowing you to control everything through voice. Samsung’s SmartThings has also been integrated into the system and will allow you to control your (supported) IoT devices at home straight from the car, including monitoring any smart cameras you may have installed in your home. The last part, of course, presumes the availability of 5G.

Perhaps the most interesting feature that was demoed for us was one that could save a lot of lives. The connected cockpit prototype has a camera placed on the steering wheel which uses facial tracking to determine the alertness level of the driver. In case the driver takes his or her eyes off the road for more than a few seconds, the system will alert the driver to pay attention to the road. For those who go on long trips, or work long hours, and consequently find themselves tired behind the wheel, the system will monitor your levels of drowsiness and record those states. At the end of the day, you can get a summary of the number of times you were distracted, drowsy and sleepy even.

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Detecting sleepy drivers using technology

Detecting sleepy drivers using technology

Even drowsiness is recorded by this new system

In case you’re wondering when this concept will become a reality, we may have a part of the answer. First off, this solution won't be branded under Samsung’s name, but Harman’s instead. Samsung declined to comment on whether Harman was in talks with any car manufacturers, and if so, who. The company also declined to give a timeframe for when this kind of system would be available commercially. What they did say was that the connected cockpit would come pre-installed, and it is unlikely there will be a DIY solution.

Swapnil Mathur
Digit's resident camera nerd, (un)official product photographer and the Reviews Editor
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