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Even in ‘Old Cars’, Drivers Want Connectivity – Incari Founder Osman Dumbuya

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Restomods are becoming an increasingly popular way to keep classic cars on the road, without damaging the environment.

However, as drivers swap pistons and carburettors for plugs and chargers, they need to find a way to present their battery information in the dashboard.

Berlin-based tech company Incari thinks that its new and stylish human-machine-interfaces (HMI) can bring classic cars into the 21st century without losing their 20th century charms.

Auto Futures spoke to Incari founder and Managing Director, Osman Dumbuya, to find out more. 

“Creating a retrofit HMI for a car like the Fiat 500 is unique and requires a lot of design ideas to fit modern technology in a car while keeping its iconic spirit of the past,” says Dumbuya.

Incari, however, isn’t simply developing plug-and-play infotainment systems for old cars. Instead, it is looking to develop software solutions that could offer all cars – not just old ones – to have improved connectivity and usability.

Incari Dumbuya
Incari founder and Managing Director Osman Dumbuya

“Incari offers the software platform Incari Studio. It is dedicated to the development of HMI. Incari Studio deliberately focuses on the essential features and offers a best-in-class solution for interface designers,” says the Sierra Leone-born Dumbuya.

“Incari Studio was created to reduce the time between design creation, engineering, and in-car deployment. It offers the same tool for each team allowing the same language and no break in the process,” continues Dumbuya.

“Incari enables teams to reuse the same logic for several projects, which reduces redundancy. Similar projects have shown that Incari can reduce development time by about 70%.

“Incari Studio is built ready for the next generation of hardware and open for third-party applications. It is a 3D-based solution allowing the integration of a multitude of new technologies such as augmented reality.”

HMIs and augmented reality might sound a bit complex but, according to Dumbuya, the reality is much simpler.

“An HMI is a system through which a person interacts with a controller. It ranges from a basic button to control a machine, the keyboard for a personal computer, to complex screen interfaces, which allow the machine to communicate to a human. A regular in-car system is an HMI, but a new digital generation of HMIs allows far more control, functionality and personalization.”

But what about those old cars? Partnering with the Strate School of Design Bangalore to help design the systems and France-based restomodding company Design 1880, Incari has developed its new system for the Fiat 500.

“Incari wants to support a new generation of UX/UI students and offer them the perfect tool to realize their bravest ideas,” says Dumbuya.

“That is how the collaboration with Strate School of Design Bangalore started. Take an idea for an innovative project that is different than all other UI (User Interface) school projects and realize it in a noticeably short period.”

“The collaboration gives Design 1880 a lot of innovative design ideas and perspective while testing them live thanks to the capabilities of Incari Studio, which lets you change design ideas without having to rewrite the code behind it.

“We believe that the best way to learn is to work on a real-life project. Design 1880 decided to give these students a chance and were impressed about the proposals they made and how fast they realized them.”

The Fiat 500 has been equipped with a digital display and can be easily connected to the smartphone and a special app. The circular digital screen replaces the analogue speedometer and can be connected to a smartphone, as well as providing relevant information to the driving experience.

Incari Fiat 500 Dashboard
The HMI on the restomodded Fiat.

The screen makes it possible to check battery consumption, for example, and can also be customized. This takes the user experience to a new level while preserving the spirit of the iconic car.

The design style for the new speedo is somewhere between skeuomorphism and flat design. It has an old-timey colour palette but its style is modern.

“By converting a classic car to an electric vehicle, the driver needs access to information such as battery charge and power consumption,” explains Dumbuya.

“We integrate this information on modern interfaces while preserving the spirit of the classic cockpit.”

But, as ever with restomodding and retrofitting classic cars, some purists will doubtless be up in arms at seeing the cutesy classic Fiat fitted with a new display and electric motor.

“Many people want to enjoy the beauty of their classic cars and be sustainable on the road at the same time. If you wish to opt for more sustainability, there is no solution that preserves the heritage of the car better than ours,” says Dumbuya.

“We integrate the necessary additional information, such as the battery charge level, with displays into the classic design concept of the cockpit. Others just build in an additional standard 7’’ screen which does not fit the classic look of the car in any way.

“Even if this is an ‘old car,’ the user is now used to having connectivity and services from a smartphone; bringing this technology also into a vintage car is what end-user is asking for.”

However, Incari’s plans don’t simply stop with fitting new displays to old cars. 

“The retrofit initiative is one aspect of Incari’s four pillars for the future,” says Dumbuya.

“The Incari Studio software solution is to become the definitive software for HMI development worldwide. In the automotive and mobility sector… but also in other industries, including medicine or for smart home solutions.

“It is not just about optimizing displays, but about tapping into all the possibilities offered by technologies such as augmented reality, voice control and others. Incari enables companies and consumers to take full advantage of these capabilities.”

The company is also planning to develop and launch a “European operating system” that will prioritise data privacy and sovereignty as well as offering secure communication and engendering a “European sense of self-confidence.”

Incari-built smartphones and tablets are also apparently in the plans for the future, as well as an Incari decentralised operating system.

Incari has also developed the HMI for the upcoming Piëch Automotive GT and an electrified version of the iconic DMC Delorean.

Incari Delorean
The Incari-equipped electric Delorean.

“Using the conventional development methods, changing the design of just one element often takes up to 14 days and involves a five-figure sum. With Incari Studio, changes can be made in a matter of minutes,” says Dumbuya.

“Without the use of Incari Studio, a development like the HMI for the Piëch GT would have tied up about ten experts from a wide variety of fields for over twelve months. With our software, the Piëch GT project was completed by three creatives in just six months.”

For now, though, retrofitting displays to old cars will have to do. But, if the work on the Fiat 500 is anything to go by, electrified classic cars are in good hands.