Tech Focus – Elevating the In-Car Experience: The Power of Automotive HMI Testing

The automotive world is evolving rapidly, and the power of hardware is being superseded by the power of software. This means the old ways of doing things are rapidly becoming obsolete, especially in the testing space. Nick Hudson from Keysight Technologies shares how you can embrace the change and be at the forefront of the new world.

As the widespread rollout of fully autonomous vehicles comes ever closer, the accepted in-car setup is going to change beyond all recognition.

As the widespread rollout of fully autonomous vehicles comes ever closer, the accepted in-car setup is going to change beyond all recognition.

Just a few short years ago, the automotive human machine interface (HMI) was limited to dashboard instrument clusters, steering wheel controls, and centre stack controls.

Today, a vehicle is likely to have all that, plus voice recognition systems, digital interfaces, an in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system that connects to your phone, and even head-up displays (HUDs).

And the evolution of automotive HMIs isn’t slowing down any time soon.

When the vehicle is in control, having all controls centred around the steering wheel and the driver’s 30-degree viewing angle is no longer necessary.

The total in-car space is therefore up for grabs.

The HMI experience of the driver and all their passengers will no longer be compared to the HMI experience in a different vehicle.

It will be compared to Netflix and Amazon.

That’s why the HMI is taking centre stage in automotive development.

Simply, getting the HMI experience right holds the key to delivering commercial advantage and taking the lead in the new era of software-defined vehicles.

And as the role of the HMI becomes more important, so does the role of HMI testing.

It’s becoming more challenging, more complex – and even more of a bottleneck to development.

Let’s look at these challenges – and, more importantly, how we can overcome them.

Automotive user experience (UX) testing

In the same way as traditional driving controls feel familiar to drivers no matter which vehicle they get into, so they have to have a familiar user interface (UI) on every HMI.

Plus, it has to be user-friendly and intuitive for everyone, from the most tech-savvy to the least.

About the Author: Nick Hudson is product marketing manager at Keysight Technologies.

About the Author: Nick Hudson is product marketing manager at Keysight Technologies.

At the same time, every brand has to deliver a distinctive UX that enhances brand identity.

Achieving all this is easier said than done.

We’re in a world where S&P Global predicts we’re going to move from an average of 1.1 screens per vehicle today to 1.6 screens by 2028, so complexity is increasing.

Plus, there are few accepted UI design protocols for automotive HMIs just yet.

You could liken the space we’re in right now to the world of websites before an accepted UI evolved.

What’s more, getting real-world user data is hard because so many of a vehicle’s systems are held in a black box environment, which means little is known about exactly how users are experiencing and interacting with HMIs.

The testing challenges of the modern HMI

Testing in this situation would be complicated enough if the entire HMI was a single in-house system.

Of course, it isn’t.

Users expect to be able to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto with their vehicles.

Therefore, there must be complete confidence that the vehicle’s systems will happily interact with all versions of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto as well as with any app from any developer that may be on users’ phones.

And from a UX perspective, especially at premium levels, there’s the need to balance the Apple CarPlay or Android Auto look and feel users are familiar with but at the same time provide vital brand differentiation.

It all takes testing requirements to the next level and puts accepted ways of working under strain.

HMI testing best practices

Automotive HMI testing has always been all-or-nothing.

Regulatory and compliance requirements (not to mention ethical considerations) in HMI testing mean the pass rate on safety and functional testing must be 100 per cent.

It means that testing has traditionally enjoyed a position that other testers might envy.

When safety is non-negotiable, “it will take as long as it take”’ is an answer that everyone in the industry accepts.

If a release needs to be delayed by six months or more while every test is conducted manually, that’s the way it’s needed to be.

It’s a way of working that’s increasingly unfit for purpose.

Software-defined vehicles are changing the way the automotive industry works.

Established ways of working need to change too.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are on update cycles that are out of the control of OEMs, so testing has to be more reactive – and needs to happen faster.

Plus, the speed of development in software-led automotive marques means every OEM needs to keep up or they will lose too much ground too quickly.

In other industries, agile and continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines enable rapid evolution.

Now it’s time that the automotive industry embraces this same approach.

The only way to balance this need for speed with the need for 100 per cent confidence is to harness what automated testing has to offer.

The tool that’s needed is Keysight’s Eggplant.

The benefits of effective HMI testing

Keysight has long empowered the automotive industry with innovative design and test solutions that help create high-quality and high-performance products while mitigating safety risks.

When you add Eggplant, you unlock a new world of HMI testing tools.

Eggplant Test uses computer vision, robotic process automation, and AI-driven testing to automate functional, regression, and UI testing tasks.

The solution tests real user journeys by emulating actual user movements, using computer vision to guide the AI to the right UI elements.

What’s more, because it uses digital twin models, you can automate interface and system testing, and conduct non-intrusive black box testing that doesn’t access underlying application programming interfaces.

It gives you everything you need to conduct hardware-in-the-loop testing, software-in-the-loop testing, and model-in-the-loop testing.

You gain the tools for steering wheel control testing, voice recognition system testing, HUD testing, touchscreen testing, infotainment system testing, and more.

It enables engineers to automate tests and run them 24/7, reducing test time and increasing test coverage.

And by removing the task of test execution, it frees up time for engineers to design new test cases and scripts that enable marques to deliver a UX that’s both familiar and unique.

The power of Keysight and Eggplant technology is why they’re already used by some of the world’s biggest marques.

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2 Responses to “Tech Focus – Elevating the In-Car Experience: The Power of Automotive HMI Testing”

  1. Max Williams says:

    Hmm I’m wondering if the future interior of a car is going to be more like an in-home theatre. As the writer points out – with the vehicle taking over the driving of the vehicle, the driver can make better use of or enjoy the commute time by watching a movie or working on a document – instead of having to manually drive the vehicle.

    • tech4tea says:

      Indeed, the human “driver” becomes yet another regular “passenger” and will be able to sit back and enjoy/make-better-use of the commute time.

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