Lincoln suppliers guided by drivers


Galhotra: Create experience, then create “technology that delivers.”

Lincoln brand managers are reaching into their supply chain to direct parts makers to pay greater attention to how luxury customers actually use their features.

Kumar Galhotra, Ford Motor Co. group vice president for Lincoln, says the effort is intended to improve user experiences with new technologies — instead of simply introducing “technology for technology’s sake.”

“We say create the experience first, and then create the technology that delivers that experience,” Galhotra told Automotive News. “In the past, we had suppliers come to us and say, ‘We’ve got this great technology, where do you want us to put it?’ ”

Galhotra said Lincoln’s switch to ethnographic research is showing positive results in more customer-friendly parts. Lincoln is deploying trained anthropologists to observe customers in real-world settings to see how they drive their cars and use their features, he said. Lincoln continues to use more typical research, such as online surveys and focus groups.

Observing firsthand what customers experience with a feature lets the brand’s product planners and engineers zero in on design changes.

The head-up display in the redesigned 2018 Lincoln Navigator benefited from this approach, Galhotra said. The new Navigator went on sale last fall. The Lincoln HUD debuted on the redesigned 2017 Lincoln Continental. At the time, it was the brand’s first-ever head-up display, even though competing brands had such displays for years.

“We chose not to launch it until it would work with polarized sunglasses,” Galhotra said.

Lincoln’s researchers learned that customers were annoyed with the HUDs already on the market because they often had to take their sunglasses off to see the display.

The head-up display on the Navigator works with polarized sunglasses. Lincoln found customers were annoyed having to take the glasses off to see other HUDs.

Mike Firth, marketing manager for Lincoln supplier DLP Automotive Group, a part of Texas Instruments, said that earlier HUDs relied on polarized light to project an image, which in turn becomes impossible to see if the driver is wearing polarized sunglasses. DLP stands for Digital Light Projection.

Using Texas Instrument computer chip technology, the Lincoln HUD serves as what Firth calls a “digital micromirror,” which reflects light as is. That makes the display visible even with polarized sunglasses, Firth said.

The newer technology also allows for a much bigger, sharper and more colorful display than earlier HUDs. That’s going to be important down the road, as automakers add augmented-reality displays to go with more driver-assistance technologies and eventually autonomous cars, Firth said.

In addition to observing consumers driving competing makes, Lincoln parts researchers tested HUD concepts using a virtual-reality simulator and eventually had customers on the road testing a prototype Lincoln HUD, said Paul Aldighieri, human-machine interface design engineer for the brand.

“Our customer insights told us that it was crucial that our HUD not be an accessory — to be seen only when conditions allow it,” Aldighieri said.

“It is the biggest and brightest HUD in the industry, which was our goal as we launched this technology as a brand.”

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