Automotive HMI Template: Take it for a ride

Want to see how to use Unity to create rich, interactive human-machine interfaces (HMIs) in cars? Check out our new Automotive HMI Template, available for free on the Unity Asset Store, and watch our webinar for an expert-led walkthrough.

Step into any new vehicle today, and you’ll see dashboard innovations beyond Henry Ford’s wildest dreams. As automakers push the boundaries on the number and size of screens inside their vehicles, they unlock opportunities to create more engaging experiences for drivers and passengers.

Car companies want to build rich, interactive content and are under increasing pressure to do so. As one auto exec memorably put it, “Screens are the new horsepower.”

Modern HMI user interfaces (UI) aren’t that different from a video game. They need to be interactive, provide compelling visuals and incorporate various simultaneous transition animations.

With its roots as a game engine, Unity is especially well suited for creating this type of content. Just as it enables collaboration among game developers, automotive teams and partners can use Unity for prototyping and production, ensuring what they dream up is what users ultimately experience. Thanks to its collaboration and extensibility features, Unity is a popular tool for HMI and UI/UX prototyping across the automotive industry.

Unity also provides unparalleled multiplatform support for teams to deploy to their target of choice. We’ve worked to ensure Unity supports a range of embedded operating systems and chipsets to make the jump possible from prototyping all the way into production. We provide platform licensing for Intel, NVIDIA, NXP and Qualcomm processors, as well as major operating systems like Android Automotive, BlackBerry QNX and Yocto Linux. We’re also working with map providers like HERE Technologies to create more immersive navigation and location-based experiences.

HMI use cases extend across all sorts of embedded systems, from car dashboards and in-flight entertainment to home appliances and digital twins. Our Unity for HMI solutions support this vast range of applications.

Introducing the Automotive HMI Template

We created the Automotive HMI Template to help simplify your HMI design and development, and to demonstrate how Unity can be used for creating any rich, interactive and dynamic content. The template provides great value as a starting point for creating an HMI project, and it includes several assets to inspire you.

We focused the template on priority use cases in the automotive industry, such as the following.

Multi-display support

Embedded HMIs may span more than one display. The template features a multi-screen manager for cluster, in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) UIs, and shows how Unity can support multiple displays based on the project contents.

High-quality visuals

The look and feel of an HMI is critical to the user experience. The template shows the stunning results possible with Unity’s Universal Render Pipeline (URP), which enables teams to achieve best-in-class graphics while optimizing for performance on your embedded target.

What you see is what you get

design team may work with an entirely different toolchain than a development team. When they are ready to see the results of their work, traditional HMI toolchains don’t let them debug within a scene – once the simulation is running, they are effectively locked out, which ultimately lengthens revision cycles and time to market.

One of Unity’s major advantages is that you can design, develop and debug on the fly, instantly see your changes accurately displayed, for both 2D and 3D content. The template showcases how Unity lets you see the UI and your scene at the same time, even during simulation.

These features are just a taste of what’s included in the Automotive HMI Template. It demonstrates plenty of specialized Unity functionality that can be used for HMI design, such as scriptable objects that store data like skins or the vehicle status.

The making of the Automotive HMI Template

This work was inspired by the exterior automotive design of Tianze Yu and the interior automotive design of Lukas Chesla, which is part of a larger sponsorship with the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit, Michigan. To learn about Unity’s collaboration with CCS, read our blog post.

We teamed up with Innovation Works, a Unity Certified Creator and renowned automotive design studio, to build the template. This project is built with Unity 2020 LTS to provide the best support for embedded systems.

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