5 Car UI Advancements That Should Go in Your Next Year’s Models

July 22, 2015  |  By Michael O'Shea  |       


As technology has advanced, so has the sophistication of in-vehicle infotainment (IVI). But with this sophistication have also come complex user interfaces (UIs), confusing controls, and all too often, reliability and safety issues. In fact, infotainment systems are the leading source of customer satisfaction woes among many new cars. Fortunately, technology is always evolving and improving. And with the right approach, OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers can implement UIs that are both effective and easy and safe to use.

Here are 5 hot UI advancements to consider for your future models:

  1. Augmented Reality Display

    An augmented reality (AR) display, often called a head-up display (HUD), improves on the typical UI by projecting essential information onto a car’s windshield. This way, drivers can view speed, navigational directions, and even infotainment data without taking their eyes off the road to look at their center console or smartphone. While some luxury brands currently offer HUD technology, this feature hasn’t yet made its way into the mainstream market.

    One AR concept with proven results is the Personal Navi, a vehicular navigational aid designed for use with a three-dimensional HUD. In a paper presented at the 2014 International Conference on Automotive User Interfaces and Interactive Vehicular Applications, the authors write: “Personal Navi visuals helped participants recognize turn locations earlier than when provided with conventional navigation aids alone. The interface also helped keep users' eyes up and fixated on the driving environment more.” They also note that 3D-HUDs are absolutely necessary “because of inferior depth perception with 2D-HUDs.”

  2. “New Car UI” Concept

    Touchscreens are nearly ubiquitous in today’s vehicles. And while they may seem intuitive, they don’t offer the tactile feedback drivers need to keep their eyes on the road. As a solution, product designer Matthaeus Krenn has urged OEMs to implement his “New Car UI,” a concept that minimizes driver distraction by making touchscreens more forgiving.

    The New Car UI design realigns the touchscreen interface to wherever a driver “swipes” their fingers, and it reacts differently depending on how many fingers they use. Essentially, it leverages a driver’s muscle memory; using different numbers of fingers invokes different controls. Some controls require small movements, while some require bigger movements. While the concept isn’t production ready, it’s certainly something OEMs can consider to enhance the UI of future models.

  3. Tactile Layer Touchscreen

    Another exciting concept in the UI space is Tactus Technology’s Tactile Layer touchscreen. This concept uses microfluid technology to replace the top layer of the touchscreen by creating transparent physical buttons that rise up on demand. When disabled, the buttons recede into the screen.

    According to Tactus, “Real buttons allow users to know their finger positions on a touchscreen. In doing so, users are able to rest their fingers on the buttons without registering input. By enabling finger resting, Tactus’ solution allows users to navigate a touchscreen without needing to look at the screen.” This is another innovative idea OEMs can build upon to reinvent their in-vehicle UIs.

  4. Gesture Recognition

    Gesture recognition, or capacitive proximity sensing, does away with the necessity of a touchscreen altogether. Similar to gaming systems like Microsoft Kinect, this technology uses a camera placed in the steering wheel or dashboard to analyze a driver’s hand gestures and activate the appropriate features. For example, an approaching hand can activate the in-car infotainment system. Beyond that, gesture recognition can enable touch-free interfaces in everything from keyless entry systems to lighting control.

    Many automakers are in the process of implementing gesture technology. In 2013, for example, Hyundai unveiled its HCD-14 concept vehicle, which used gesture controls for HVAC, navigation, and infotainment functions. Hyundai’s gestures included moving a hand toward or away from the dashboard to zoom in or out on the navigation system, or a side-to-side gesture to change radio stations.

  5. All-Digital Interface

    Here’s an advance that does the exact opposite of the previous one -- it actually makes the entire UI one giant touch display. Tesla injected this idea into its 2013 Model S by replacing every button or knob with a horizontal 17-inch touchscreen featuring an interface similar to a smartphone.

    What Tesla’s UI is missing, of course, is tactile feedback. But it has something else on the competition. Because the UI utilizes a Tesla-developed operating system, it can be updated -- and improved -- remotely from stored WiFi connections and nearby Tesla locations. That level of interface optimization and responsiveness is definitely a unique benefit within the automotive space, and it’s one that all OEMs can work toward.



Topics: Automotive UI/UX

Michael O'Shea

Michael O’Shea is the Founder and CEO of Abalta Technologies. He is responsible for all aspects of executive management of Abalta and a direct participant in many client engagements, particularly in management advisory projects.

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