Fancy taking control of your autonomous car? Forget about steering wheels; use your Xbox controller.
Hyundai and Kia have developed a means of manually controlling an autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel, proposing that such cars be controlled by wireless controllers like the ones you would use to play Xbox or control an RC car.
CarBuzz has discovered a patent filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Hyundai, Kia, and the SL Corporation, an automotive componentry manufacturer based in South Korea that supplies several automakers. The patent describes an "integrated control apparatus for an autonomous driving vehicle" and details two separate types of controller interfaces that have designs rooted in gaming.
Don't expect to see these controllers in a Hyundai Ioniq 6 anytime soon, though, as they're more likely to be implemented in production AVs like the Hyundai Mobis M.Vision TO pictured below.
This new driving interface has been conceived to enable either one- or two-hand operation, and the two-hand system looks particularly familiar. Its general design draws inspiration from an Xbox controller, with a grip for each hand and an array of switches and triggers along its top and sides. On the other hand, the one-hand system resembles a pistol-grip interface, with its triggers and buttons arranged around and on top of its grip section. These control devices will be tethered to the vehicle's interior and can be operated by any occupant.
One key feature is shared between both interface types, and that involves a dead man switch. This switch is the main override because if it is not activated by the operator, the vehicle will not move at all.
In the one-hand embodiment, it takes the form of a switch at the bottom of the pistol grip section and is placed in a way that both the accelerator- and dead-man buttons can be operated in a single trigger motion, albeit with two fingers because the accelerator switch is further shielded by a trigger guard as you'd find on a handgun.
The layout is slightly different on the two-hand version, where the dead man switch takes the form of a bar running between the hand grip sections beneath the accelerator and brake buttons. Both single- and double-hand designs use a slider switch to determine the direction of the vehicle's movement, allowing for reverse, neutral, and forward drive modes to be selected.
Steering for both designs is accomplished by means of a steering dial mounted on the top surface of the respective interface units, to be operated by the driver's second hand. Much as you'd find with game controllers, the steering dial will have a short travel between its extremes and progressively increasing resistance as it goes through its range of motion, along with a return spring to ensure that it always settles on its center position upon release. The car's computer will then translate these digital inputs to front wheel steering angles.
Motive power output will be regulated by the pressure on the accelerator trigger in the one-handed model, but the two-handed model will feature a separate, smaller adjustment dial to determine the drivetrain's output. In this respect, the pistol grip's trigger operation appears to be more intuitive, but Xbox or Playstation users should have few problems with coordinating the finger movement combinations required to operate the vehicle with the two-handed interface.
This control interface represents the ultimate iteration of the driving game and brings virtual vehicle controls to the real world. Traditional drivers will hate it, of course, but when cars start morphing into video games, it's only logical that their controls will follow suit.
Hyundai has also worked on other systems for autonomous vehicles, including pedals that slide out of the way when not in use, and seat-mounted joysticks for Level 3 and 4 autonomous cars, but this new system will likely only be applicable to fully autonomous vehicles as a failsafe in case of emergency or if a cloud-based control system fails.
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