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Tomorrow's car dashboards will be smart responsive surfaces that look and feel much different than today's "control panels" with all of their buttons and switches. In research conducted under the Happiness project, Liten, a CEA Tech institute, produced a car dashboard demonstrator with no mechanical buttons. The demonstrator was presented at the 2017 Geneva Auto Show in March.
The demonstrator is made up of a mobile key with a convex touch surface and a central console with an interactive façade equipped with eight capacitive sensors in the form of buttons that can be pushed or slid by the user. The active components are printed on a polycarbonate film, which is thermoformed and cut out before being overmolded via plastic injection to obtain a single part. "We had to print our sensors and switches in a way that was compatible with plastics manufacturing processes," said one researcher. "We also had to choose materials that were both conductive and compatible with thermoforming. In other words, the materials had to be able to withstand high temperatures, stretching, and bending."
Haptic switches printed with a piezoelectric material to provide the user with touch feedback in the form of vibration at 200 Hz–300 Hz will also be integrated into the final demonstrator.
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.