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Mazda and Unity: Pioneering a new future for automotive cockpit HMI
ROMANO MCBRIDE / UNITY TECHNOLOGIESSenior Technical Product Manager
Apr 17, 2024|5:0 Min
Mazda and Unity: Pioneering a new future for automotive cockpit HMI

With market-leading multiplatform support and efficient development workflows for user experiences (UX), the Unity Engine and Editor are becoming the go-to solution for carmakers to develop their next-generation in-vehicle Human-Machine-Interfaces (HMI).

On March 7, 2024, Unity Japan publicly announced a partnership with Mazda Motor Corporation to embed Unity in future Mazda vehicles. In a conversation with Seiji Goto, general manager of Infotainment and Cockpit Electronics at Mazda, we gained insight on their perspective on HMI and Unity.

A vision for 2030: Driving forward with Mazda

As part of Mazda’s ambitious 2030 roadmap, research and development is accelerated in many areas, including HMI. The aim is to take on the challenge of simultaneously improving safety and value for customers through intuitive, great-looking, and responsive UX. Mazda will work directly with Unity to create a more “human-centric” in-vehicle experience.

“Drivers process a variety of information while driving, and we believe it is important for them to be able to recognize and understand information inside and outside the car intuitively, and to operate the car intuitively,” explains Mr. Goto.

Seiji Goto, General Manager, Infotainment and Control Model Development Department, Mazda at the Unity office

The current world of HMI

Over the last few years, the amount of information passed to drivers and passengers in vehicles has increased. Goto, who joined Mazda in 2015, points to the move from hard disks to cloud-connected vehicles, and the continuous growth of data to be managed just for the navigation systems alone.

Throughout the industry, the same is true for the recent advent of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), where the amount of information displayed has scaled with system performance. A key challenge is to convey relevant information to the driver in an easy-to-understand manner while keeping the system quick to react and distraction free.

Bridging the technology gap and the human-machine gap

In-vehicle HMIs now require technologies that were pioneered in the games industry. Systems like a scene tree for 3D graphics, animation blending, or easily exchangeable prefabs are a challenging thing to build from scratch, but these are standard in the video game industry. These technologies are ideal to tackle the challenges of modern HMI.

“By utilizing Unity’s expertise in real-time 3D rendering for our user interface to spatially represent information from many car systems, we will be able to reduce the time and burden on the driver to recognize and understand information, realizing a safer and more convenient driving experience,” says Goto.

Which UI works best differs between individuals. But Goto believes that by using Unity, the HMI can be personalized to meet each driver’s individual requirements.

Seiji Goto and Yasumaro Matsumoto, Director of Unity Japan at the Unity office

Unity and Mazda: A strategic partnership

For carmakers, it’s important to have an integrated development environment that allows designers, developers, and other contributors to iterate on the project efficiently. Over the course of their search for a toolchain to power their next-generation HMI, Unity emerged as an innovative, future-looking solution.

Goto outlines a multitude of reasons that make Unity a clear choice for automotive HMI:

  • An active community provides a trove of documentation, tools, and solutions.
  • The ability to tap into a large user base of game developers makes it easy to hire Unity experts anywhere in the world.
  • Unity has a track record of multiplatform adaptability that reduces the risk of long-term technological changes.
  • Development tools have ease-of-use benefits.

The partnership between Mazda and Unity Technologies Japan Corporation is a milestone in automotive HMI development. “Mazda is accelerating research and development in all areas under the 2030 Management Policy,” said Michihiro Imada, Mazda’s executive officer in charge of Integrated Control System Development.

“In the cockpit HMI area, Mazda will continue to evolve the interface between the human and car based on the ‘human centric’ development concept to deliver exciting mobility experiences. Specifically, Mazda will take on the challenge of further improving safety and convenience by enabling intuitive human operation and creating new value for vehicles.”

Mr. Imada continues, saying, “By working with Unity, which is highly regarded globally for its technical capabilities and high quality in the rapidly innovating game industry, Unity can offer graphical user interface (GUI) solutions in the cockpit HMI and advance Mazda’s goal of human-centric vehicle engineering.”

Future outlook

With the complex processes involved in creating an automotive HMI experience, there is a lot of exchange between departments such as marketing, manufacturing, UX design, and software engineering. On top of embedded HMI, Unity’s real-time 3D (RT3D) capabilities are used for VR-based UX testing, prototyping, engineering and design visualizations, car configurators, operational digital twins, and other applications in the automotive sector.

Mazda believes that it is possible to introduce Unity in each of these departments, and if they do so successfully, they will be able to communicate through the same development environment. This will help to make the work itself more enjoyable and encourage more customer-oriented proposals. By building an open development environment and system, better products can be created.

Learn more about how Unity can boost your HMI project at unity.com/hmi