UltraSense earns another touch-sensing automotive design win

UltraSense Systems, developer of touch sensing technology for automotive and other markets, has struck a deal with Germany’s BCS Automotive Interface Solutions (BCS-AIS), a component supplier large automotive manufacturers in China and elsewhere, to include UltraSense’s Human-Machine Interface (HMI) Controller ICs in solid-surface steering wheel designs on future vehicle models.

The BCS-AIS deal represents the second major design win for UltraSense in recent months, after it announced a partnership with South Korea’s Mobase in September to bring its technology to bear in solid-state, touch-activated infotainment displays in vehicles.

These partnerships come as the electric vehicle market is ramping up globally, and as many automotive manufacturers are preparing for the beginning of a major upgrade cycle in overall EV design.

Daniel Goehl, co-founder and chief business officer of UltraSense, told Fierce Electronics that many EVs currently in the market are still part of an “EV 1.0” generation. “Typically a car platform lasts for about five years before there's a major overhaul to it, so those major overhauls will happen in 2026, 2027, and I would call that ‘EV 2.0,” he said. “And so that's where we will start to see the hockey stick, for adoption of our technology and our revenue.”

Goehl added that while different automakers around the world tend to have very different design cycles–Tesla is among the fastest, followed by Chinese manufacturers, and then Koreans, with European firms taking a little longer, and big-name U.S. players being slower to move–UltraSense is starting to see the seeds it has been planting with potential partners over the last few years begun to take root. He said the company has “dozens… probably 30 to 40 active conversations going on, a lot of them with the global tier ones, the big-name companies.”

He added, “What I will say is that we have been planting the seeds over the last two years or so, and some grow faster than others, and you're starting to see that today. I would say there's probably half a dozen or so [deals with automotive suppliers] that will be announced in 2024.”

Among the fastest movers to adopt UltraSense’s technology, BCS will integrate the San Jose, California company’s TouchPoint Q TapForce HMI Controller into its latest solid-surface steering wheel switch boxes with active haptics. Production is set to commence before the end of the year.

Tim Zhou, R&D Director of BCS, said in a statement provided by UltraSense, “As a supplier of new and superior touch systems to automotive makers, BCS is delighted to partner with UltraSense to integrate their innovative HMI Touch Controllers into our next-generation products. With UltraSense’s partnership, we are confident that our solid-surface multi-mode steering wheels and other next-generation touch products will stand out with our customers to deliver an exceptional touch user experience.”

As touch-based, multi-mode sensing works its way into more vehicles in the years ahead, it will not be limited to just infotainment systems or steering wheels. Goehl said manufacturers have interest in including it in door locks, overhead consoles, side door panels, seating controls and other places where mechanical buttons have previously reigned. “We eventually could see anywhere from 20 to 70 of our HMI controllers per car depending on the manufacturer and region,” he said.