GitHub Repository: here

The following work was undertaken (enjoyed) as a senior capstone design project of four Stanford Mechanical Engineering Candidates during Spring 2013.

Dave Evans acted as the primary liason from the Ford Silicon Valley Laboratory.

While the car is built to last for at least 10 years and over 100,000 miles, consumer electronics often have a life cycle of around 12-18 months. As a result, a car may feel old for most of its lifespan. Together with Ford SVL we set out to design a solution that would make car electronics more modular so as to better keep up with and leverage rapidly changing technology.

During our needfinding process, we found that Silicon Valley interviewees tend to:

  • Own a smartphone which is newer than 3 years old.
  • Use their smartphone instead of their car’s infotainment system for features such as music. Smartphones were used even for features such as navigation, for which the car has a specifically designed interface.
  • Use their smartphone without proper mounting, and without considering driver distraction issues.

We decided on two main solutions which approach the problem of clean, modular and safe smart-device integration from different perspectives. These solutions are implemented in three separate projects:

  • Shape Retaining Mount (SRM)

    To enable the frequent swapping of a variety of devices with unpredictable shapes, we designed and built a Shape Retaining Mount, a soft surface which can harden around an object to secure it. This mount could also be used to hold non-smart devices, or even instrument panels for those not inclined towards touchscreen interfaces.

  • Smartphone User Interface Cloning (UIC)

    To go beyond simply fixturing a device in a predetermined position, and in order to be truly convenient and safe, we created a hybrid hardware/software solution: Smartphone User Interface Cloning is the idea that many safety and practical benefits can be gained from encouraging a driver to interact with his phone via a permanent touch-screen on the console. This concept is significantly different from MirrorLink, so please read more to find out how.

  • 3D Printed Tablet Mount

    To demonstrate our UIC concept, we created a semi-permanent, 3D Printed Tablet Mountfor a SYNC 1.5 Ford Mustang that can be used to fixture a variety of devices by printing different adaptor parts. Although there’s nothing particularly unusual about the project, it can provide a solid reference for any hobbyists seeking to create similar projects.

We believe to have given two possible answers to the question of in-car electronics modularity:

On a physical level, our shape-retaining mount concept can be refined to allow the design of swappable interfaces by users or by the manufacturer. This was our “We don’t think other people will think of this” idea. :) One area that would need to be investigated is safety, especially if the user is the person responsible for placing the device in the mount.

At a higher level, we believe that manufacturers must both streamline the conflict/overlap between smart devices and infotainment, as well as provide a better way for users to interact with their devices in the car. Our idea of simple display mirroring is the cleanest way of providing such an interface that can both evolve with technology and provide some control over driver distraction. However, it provides no garuantee that content will comply with official driver distraction standards and as such, may be unrealistic from an OEM perspective. Nonetheless, manufacturers cannot afford to duplicate all work done in the smart-device space. It may be that trusting respected institutions like Apple or Google to lead here can provide a middle ground between user experience and safety.