Push, wipe, grip

On behalf of various OEMs, the experts from Da Vinci Engineering examine the functionality of control concepts of future series of vehicles.

Buyers of new cars encounter a number of increasingly complex components and functions. Head-up display, cross-traffic warning systems, online navigation – new assistance and security systems are added to cars with each new vehicle generation. Yet everything should be as easy to use as possible. That’s no mean feat for vehicle engineers since the technology that is installed is enormously complex. Manufacturers are familiar with the problem, which is why they rely on operating structures that are as simple and intuitive as possible.

Check controls from the user’s perspective

Da Vinci Engineering, the personnel services provider from Stuttgart, can help you with this. Our engineers validate the functionality of the controls in the vehicle. In other words, as a neutral intermediary between suppliers and vehicle developers, they check from the user’s perspective whether each of the controls works as is required by law and as expected by the customer. Da Vinci Engineering professionals work closely with OEM engineers for this purpose. “As an external service provider, we always keep a healthy distance from the product and are thus predestined to track down discrepancies and to localise any errors,” explains Engineer Dirk Pühl, who has been working at Da Vinci Engineering for many years.

Fixed specifications regulate complex collaboration

Collaboration between OEM and Da Vinci Engineering is always based on the same set of specifications. At the beginning, the manufacturer defines how the system should work. This is followed by the theory, comparing the manufacturer’s wishes with statutory requirements. Is the size of the head-up display allowed? Does the location of the hazard lights switch meet statutory requirements? Could the infotainment system distract the driver too much?

This is followed by discussions with suppliers. We need to clarify when they can deliver the initial prototypes. Test specifications are defined in the requirements specification and a test series is created. Little by little, a development schedule is created, with approval given by the manufacturer at the end.

Only then does the practical part begin. Test stands are set up and individual controls are tested. If the correct display appears, are there any unwanted interactions? Should the experts from Da Vinci Engineering find any discrepancies, they usually clarify them directly with the supplier or the commissioning department. The engineers record any errors in the manufacturer’s database. Each fault is documented using measurement logs and photos where necessary.

The next step deals with functionality but also haptics, usually by means of a sample part from the 3D printer. The external professionals check how the switches, buttons or touchpad feel and whether the operating logic is correct. If the signals are sent correctly, are the buttons assigned with the correct functions? The vehicle comes into play right at the end. The engineers from Da Vinci Engineering check the final installed part while driving on cordoned-off roads in Germany and Spain. However, such test drives are particularly exciting for people and material in the winter months in Sweden or even Norway when the on-board computer displays outside temperatures of minus 30 degrees. In any case, it is a lengthy process with considerable numbers of loops and tests until all parties involved give their OK.

Considerable developmental work for intuitive operation

Buyers of a car are largely unaware of the enormous development work involved in creating even a small, inconspicuous part. Wherever it is: at best, drivers don’t even know if they have just switched on the windscreen wipers or turned the radio down. They do it intuitively, without thinking about it. If every switch, touchscreen or touchpad works as expected and if happy customers put away their car in their garage at night, then the specialists from Da Vinci Engineering also know that we’ve done everything right.

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