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Caleb Kraft
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so many buttons!
Caleb Kraft   8/28/2013 10:53:49 AM
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Many of these just seem so cluttered and overly complicated. I hope that we can cut down on the button explosion and start moving towards more ellegant and intuitive designs.

I rode in the ModelS, and while they have cut down on the clutter with that giant screen, the screen itself is quite ugly. I think they may be on the right track though, it just needs som erefinement.

junko.yoshida
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Re: so many buttons!
junko.yoshida   8/28/2013 11:41:57 AM
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Exactly, Caleb. That (and giagantic display in Tesla's model S) was my original impedus to look into this.

 

junko.yoshida
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UI battle between carmakers and CE vendors?
junko.yoshida   8/28/2013 11:45:37 AM
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One of the things that came to my attention in researching this topic was that carmakers are actually under tremendous pressure to keep up with advancements of UIs in smartphones and tablets.

Leveraging what CE vendors have already learned in their UI technology for automotive makes sense -- and yet, I think using gestures or handwriting for automotive dashboards is a bit of a stretch.

 

Caleb Kraft
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Re: UI battle between carmakers and CE vendors?
Caleb Kraft   8/28/2013 11:52:02 AM
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Yeah, the one with handwriting recognition seemed pretty silly to me. we need someone to do basically what apple did when they put out the click wheel. Something that is intuitive and simple. I have no idea what that is though. If I did, I'd be doing that for a living!

Sanjib.A
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Re: UI battle between carmakers and CE vendors?
Sanjib.A   8/28/2013 12:10:34 PM
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What about doing more on speech recognition, doing more on the in-car system understanding from the voice commands? Rather than touch, jesture, doing more UI design with the voice commands for cars?

Caleb Kraft
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Re: UI battle between carmakers and CE vendors?
Caleb Kraft   8/28/2013 12:43:46 PM
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Voice seems like it could work well. I think people have tried it in the past but it was always not quite functional enough. With google's new stuff and Apples Siri, it seems like it is coming up more and more. I think some vague gestures might be nice too.

junko.yoshida
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Re: UI battle between carmakers and CE vendors?
junko.yoshida   8/28/2013 1:09:07 PM
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Voice is now showing up often in many new automotive models. That's I think becoming almost a given.

What's fascinating to me, however, is that automakers are trying to emulate much of the touch screen experience that consumers are already familiar.

Call me old-fashioned, but I miss my knobs! Not too many, but a few knobs and buttons would make me feel more secure! 

Caleb Kraft
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Re: UI battle between carmakers and CE vendors?
Caleb Kraft   8/28/2013 1:20:24 PM
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Tactile interfaces like knobs and buttons can be learned and used without looking. In a car, this seems essential. with touch screen interfaces it is literally required that the user focus on the display for every single interaction. That doesn't sound like a good idea to me.

rich.pell
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Re: UI battle between carmakers and CE vendors?
rich.pell   8/28/2013 2:33:31 PM
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This was the topic of a recent post on EDN, which discussed Ford's recent backpedaling on its My Touch system:

Touch control not always the best solution

 

Caleb Kraft
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Re: UI battle between carmakers and CE vendors?
Caleb Kraft   8/28/2013 2:35:48 PM
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There was some experimenting with tactile touch displays that seemed interesting. You can have a static touch display with textured areas that simply change context quite easily. There was also a tactile method that pumped a liquid or air into bladders to create buttons on a touchscreen. 

wilber_xbox
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Re: UI battle between carmakers and CE vendors?
wilber_xbox   8/28/2013 2:45:39 PM
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I really hope that electronics could change the dull dashboard of my car. There are so many innovations that can be incorporated but i think economy is keeping it away from automobiles. But i am fedup with the same old dashboard.

Caleb Kraft
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Re: UI battle between carmakers and CE vendors?
Caleb Kraft   8/28/2013 3:22:10 PM
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True, it seems like there have been a few innovations like speed projected on the windshield and stuff like that but they're never adopted into the main market.

junko.yoshida
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Re: UI battle between carmakers and CE vendors?
junko.yoshida   8/29/2013 9:00:59 AM
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@wilber-xbox, would you then opt for a dashboard that you can customize and personalize?

junko.yoshida
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Re: UI battle between carmakers and CE vendors?
junko.yoshida   8/29/2013 9:08:21 AM
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Rich, thanks for the link.

While I agree with the author, I am also thinking that a new generation of drivers who grew up with touch screen might not even think about the wisdom of putting in buttons or knobs!

kfield
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Re: UI battle between carmakers and CE vendors?
kfield   9/30/2013 9:51:30 AM
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@calebkraft repair is also simpler with buttons and knobs. My husband had a basic (read: limited electronics) washing machine that ran for years without any required maintenance. The only thing that failed over the years was a plastic knob, he replaced it with a wooden knob like the kind you'd find in an old-fashioned chest of drawers. It was ugly, but worked perfectly!

Caleb Kraft
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Re: UI battle between carmakers and CE vendors?
Caleb Kraft   9/30/2013 9:58:20 AM
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Sure, this will always be true. Simpler tech is easier to repair. However, in order to make progress, we'll just have to possibly accept that not everyone will be repairing their device at home. 

It is weird for me to say that, since I'm a huge proponent of quality goods that are easily repairable, but it is true. If we only use what your average joe can fix, we just won't have cool new tech ever. 

AZskibum
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Re: UI battle between carmakers and CE vendors?
AZskibum   9/30/2013 11:33:35 AM
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The ultimate UI has to be voice, not touchscreen or even voice-assisted touchscreen. Yes, we all like to play with knobs or otherwise use our hands to control things, but that also usually involves averting our eyes away from the road ahead. This isn't just a modern-day problem due to cell phones, etc. Cars have always had audio systems, and we've all done our share of changing radio stations or tracks on a CD while driving. That might be a very momentary distraction -- far less dangerous than texting, for example -- but sometimes a momentary distraction can be disasterous.

cpetras991
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Automotive UIs su**
cpetras991   8/28/2013 1:16:58 PM
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So we've got two cars with multi-function displays.  A '12 VW Jetta and a '13 Nissan Xterra.  I'll be nice and say that the user interfaces (UI) suck.  They really need to get some human factors people involved... maybe even avionics interface designers.

The radio interface for the Jetta is this arc of bubbles labeled with numbers (1, 2, 3, ...) for the presets.  If a preset is selected, then and only then does it display what channel its set too.  The Nissan radio interface is six buttons labeled 1 thru 6, that resides in the upper left corner of the display (lots of unused black space), again with no clue as to whats programmed behind them.  The buttons are sized about as big as the tip of my little finger.

The NAV/MAP is cumbersome also.  You'd think they'd take some lessons from the stand alone nav devices life Garmin, etc.

There is other functionality, but its hard to learn when driving down the road.  Expecting people to sit in their driveway and work through all the button combinations is absurd.

Don't they do usability labs and focus groups?

junko.yoshida
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Good, Bad and Ugly UIs
junko.yoshida   8/28/2013 1:24:29 PM
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@cpetras991, thanks for your comments here. I think we can officially open a thread here about good, bad and ugly UIs you encountered in your cars (or cars you have driven). 

Let it rip!

I want to compile a new list and slideshow!

Caleb Kraft
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Re: Good, Bad and Ugly UIs
Caleb Kraft   8/28/2013 2:10:16 PM
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My 1976 VW bus has a simple and easy interface. No real complaints there. However my late 90's chevy venture van has the stereo very low on the cluster. you ahve to lean down to see what is going on. The CD tray is literally about 5 inches off the floor. 

junko.yoshida
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Re: Good, Bad and Ugly UIs
junko.yoshida   8/29/2013 9:04:58 AM
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@caleb, wow, that's a pretty dumb design, isn't it? I had no idea that late 90's chevy venture van would do that.

The dashboard of my Nissan Sentra is dull, but I am pretty happy about it. It's simple.

Here's the thing, though. When consumers go out and buy a car, I wonder how important dashboard design is for their decision making...

 

 

 

Caleb Kraft
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Re: Good, Bad and Ugly UIs
Caleb Kraft   8/29/2013 9:12:50 AM
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I did tech support and photography for different areas of the used car business for several years, mainly exotics. If you watch people when they climb into a car on the lot, they grab the wheel, look out the windshield (imagine driving), then immediately their gaze drops down and to the right (here in the states), and just pours down the column. At that moment, they're making a snap judgement on the car's features. 

 

EE,etc.
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Automotive vs. Cconsumer UI
EE,etc.   8/28/2013 2:40:24 PM
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The Automotive industry is trying hard to get more high-tech look and feel, however they have to follow much more stricter standards than is followed in the CE market, as Junko mentioned their safety standards are much higher and the design\life cycle is much longer.

in CE market, if customer dosn't like the design the manufacturer will change it next year but is not that easy in the Car, so those who would like to play roles in the Cars need to have a much longer vision on what it's going to happen over next 5 years and how they keep those  relevant and interesting to the customers.

the same way that for automotive electronic designs, higher grdae ICs are needed,  the Software development\QA standards are much more demanding and require complinace to standards such as SPICE and CMMI just to be acceptable and then each car maker has its own level of scrutiny., this has been ensuring that the cars are still safe. I hope the rush into adapting to the fancy looking UI does not change that attitude.

Caleb Kraft
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Re: Automotive vs. Cconsumer UI
Caleb Kraft   8/28/2013 3:41:38 PM
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I can't imagine any car company would forego safety standards they're already adhering to in order to push out a display that seemed fancier.  However, I wonder how they even test the level of user distraction. Are they using gaze tracking in their tests?

Bert22306
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Re: Automotive vs. Cconsumer UI
Bert22306   8/28/2013 7:01:13 PM
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I feel for the car companies, sort of, but I don't feel so much for consumers who are making these silly demands.

Touch screens in cars, meant for the driver that is, are supremely stupid. For one thing, they cause the driver to have to divert his gaze and find something that can't be felt. For another, no road is perfectly smooth. So even after you've taken your eyes off the road to find the exact location, a bump in the road will make you miss the mark.

Controls need to be able to be grasped, to some extent, to be useful. So you don't end up opening the trunk when you were trying to turn on the windshield wipers. And even worse, to require a driver to read text on a screen is dumber still.

Honestly, what I see here are really fussy and complicated schemes, all non-standard as of now, mostly to control the most non-essential features (entertainment). If they were necessary for actually driving some complicated vehicle, I'd have a lot more sympathy. Looks like now, if you rent a car, you have to give up on doing something as mundane as turning on the radio. That would take a long time studying the manual at the rental place. Who has time for that?

junko.yoshida
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Re: Automotive vs. Cconsumer UI
junko.yoshida   8/29/2013 9:25:16 AM
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I agree, Bert.

The learning curve for any new UI for any products is always a big issue.

And I think you hit the nail on the head, Especially for those of us who need to drive a rental car, forget it. Nobody has time for it!

EE,etc.
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Re: Automotive vs. Cconsumer UI
EE,etc.   8/29/2013 6:42:16 PM
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@Caleb

I am not sure how they are testing\measureing the driver distraction levels, one of the common application that is already availble in many cars today is the lane departure mechanisem, but certainly a type of inside camera is needed to recognize/measure driver's responses, it will be fun to see that implemnted from a Sci-Fi movie to reality!

junko.yoshida
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Re: Automotive vs. Cconsumer UI
junko.yoshida   8/29/2013 9:21:15 AM
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EE, etc., I wholeheartedly agree.

But at the same time, this whole argument reminds me of a TV vs PC debate I used to cover back in early 90's. CE industry at that time insisted that TV sets need to last for more than 7 years;TVs can't be designed like PCs; etc. TVs in those days had no standardized platform; every TV was using its own home-grown chips and software (well, not much software).

Fast forward to 2013. I see, although at a different scale, that the same argument is being repeated for the auto industry.

Sure, the safety standard is critical, and carnakers can't and shouldn't compromise that. But that said, a bigger trend of a platform-based approach for cars, especially when it comes to graphics on dashboards, may soon become something the auto industry might not be able to ignore. Economy, flexibility and upgradability might trump after all.

 

wilber_xbox
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Re: Automotive vs. Cconsumer UI
wilber_xbox   8/29/2013 2:22:01 PM
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Junko, maybe designer do not know what people will prefer or like inside a car. We all have a fairly good idea of what electronic possiblities should an UI have but the aesthetics and feel are two major factors that car makers cannot ignore.


Even now, looking at the car maket there is no standarization. Every car maker try to build a car which is as far away from standard as possible.

EE,etc.
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Re: Automotive vs. Cconsumer UI
EE,etc.   8/29/2013 7:59:19 PM
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@Junko, thanks for sharing the TV story, no doubt that the life cycle of all electronics are becoming shorter, however, some industries still can not and should not compete with CE industry in this race, one of them is the Auto industry, they just can't afford to have a new design every year and have it certified for production, one of the solution is to make their UI so customizable that every customer can get what they like, hoefully, that is not too far.

"a bigger trend of a platform-based approach for cars, especially when it comes to graphics on dashboards, may soon become something the auto industry might not be able to ignore."

as you said the new graphics on dashboards and UI will be an important differentiative factor for car makers and is already trending fast, I am sure it will be one of the decision factors for consumers very soon. traditionally Asian auto makers have been leading the car electronics and now seems European ones are catching up.

however, I still prefer the real backup camera from Toyota to the radar style picture of BMW!

and

i am very glad that regulatory bodies such as NHTA are still actively involved:)

junko.yoshida
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Re: Automotive vs. Cconsumer UI
junko.yoshida   8/30/2013 9:38:59 AM
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@EE,etc. Thanks for your thorough response, as usual.

You wrote:


i am very glad that regulatory bodies such as NHTA are still actively involved:)

Me, too! But I do see their limit. They may be able to regulate (well, not mandate but recommend) what carmakers should and shouldn't do, but they are powerless to  smartphones and tablets drivers are bringing into their own cars... that's an issue, I think.

EE,etc.
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Re: Automotive vs. Cconsumer UI
EE,etc.   8/30/2013 3:03:42 PM
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@Junko,

you wrote: "they are powerless to  smartphones and tablets drivers are bringing into their own cars... that's an issue, I think."

totally agree with your point!, recent stats from Insurance companies shows that driver's distraction (and we all know what is the cause of that; smartphones!) is the main cause of car accidents nowadays.

However, I belive when car makers integrate a CE technology feature in the cars, they tend to make it safer and that's a good practice. For example now almost all new cars have built-in Bluetooth and therefore all drivers can use hands-free connection in their car which is cool and multi-purpose (plays music, inculde contacts, etc.) , of course drivers still can avoid using it but it's less likley now becuse it's easily availble to them.





selinz
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Re: Automotive vs. Cconsumer UI
selinz   8/31/2013 12:15:30 PM
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The level of distraction is a function of the location of the screen (do you have to look down or away) and the size and obviousness of the functions. I have been very impressed with one particular mobile maker in their efforts to ease this transition into automobiles.

The availability of a dock and an alternative user interface for use in vehicles really make it easy to call, listen to recorded audio, even listen to texts withough having to remove you eyes from the road. It's not surprising that they have a long history with car radio. Oh, big screens help too. Unlike "super commuter," my commute is 100% in my car so it's an incredible benefit to be able to answer and initiate calls hand and essentially eyes free during the 2 to3 hours of daily commute time. Again, the location plays a critical role. I mount my phone on my 2007 civic in front of the Tach, which is not critical for driving but places the phone in a non-distracted location.

 

The problem with legisltation is that it does a piss poor job of delineating crap user interfaces from good ones. We don't need more laws. Every state has a distracted driving statute.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Automotive vs. Cconsumer UI
junko.yoshida   9/3/2013 4:09:54 AM
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@selinz, you wrote:

The availability of a dock and an alternative user interface for use in vehicles really make it easy to call, listen to recorded audio, even listen to texts withough having to remove you eyes from the road.


That is actually a good argument for giving drivers the freedom to use their own CE devices in their own cars. And as you note, as long as the driver knows where to locate (and mount) the CE device, the driver's familiarity with his own CE device is probably make it "safer" to use. 

AZskibum
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Re: Automotive vs. Cconsumer UI
AZskibum   9/30/2013 11:36:46 AM
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"The level of distraction is a function of the location of the screen (do you have to look down or away) and the size and obviousness of the functions."

Very true, and this is also a good argument for HUDs projected onto the windshield.

kfield
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More room for Cupholders
kfield   8/28/2013 4:11:51 PM
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I did a story about ten years about about the trend in more electronics stuffed into cars and how that was crowding out room for the cupholder. Maybe this new trend will mean automakers will now compete on cupholder styles!

Caleb Kraft
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Re: More room for upholders
Caleb Kraft   8/28/2013 4:37:58 PM
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haha, I can imagine the cup holder tech trends now. "It'll tweet when your drink is low!"

kfield
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Re: More room for Cupholders
kfield   8/28/2013 4:39:34 PM
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@calebkraft And when you're empty, it automatically orders up another one at Dunks the way you like it made and ready for you when you pull up in the drive through!

Caleb Kraft
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Re: More room for upholders
Caleb Kraft   8/28/2013 4:42:26 PM
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haha, nice. Honestly though, I wonder if there is a feature you could build into a cup holder that would be a selling point? Maybe audible warnings from the sonic rangefinders in teh bumpers if you're closing the gap between you and another car (but only while the cup is out of the holder, assuming your line of sight is obscured?). 

nah, maybe not. Maybe just holding a cup is enough. 

kfield
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Re: More room for Cupholders
kfield   8/28/2013 4:46:26 PM
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@calebkraft  Cup holder - gateway to the Internet!

David Ashton
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Re: room for cupholders
David Ashton   8/29/2013 5:11:25 AM
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Getting my coffee out of the cupholder is about the most I would want to do with my hands in a car apart from driving it.   My current cellphone has one touch voice recognition dialling and I still frequently have to take my eyes off the road to hit the right button to do this.  I won't even think about doing it on anything except an open road.

Sanjib A above is right.  Voice commands are the way to go.  My phone's voice recognition is good enough to recognise names most of the time, so why can't I just say "Dial Joe Bloggs" instead of having to press a button first?  

Here in Australia you are allowed to press a button to answer a call, but nothing more.  But it's not enforced.  You see people texting on hand-held phones... aargghh!

ANYTHING that requires more hand use is going to result in more accidents.  No matter how easily identifiable you make it, people are going to look.  And take their eyes off the road.

DrQuine
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Car User Interfaces
DrQuine   8/29/2013 8:37:11 PM
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I find simple interfaces convey the most information and allow for a quick learning curve. The simple visual MPG display (numerical average and instantaneous bar graph) on my 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid is unmatched on any other car. It is so intuitive that it provides "biofeedback" to improve driving performance. As a SuperCommuter (flying 800 miles one way commute to work every 15 days), I rent a lot of cars. Many new cars have displays that are so complex that you spend your time reading screens and pressing buttons to accomplish trivial tasks. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I was surprised to rent a VW Beetle this week and find a spartan elegant clean user interface. There is no visual clutter and the intuitive (except pressing the windshield wiper switch to display MPG) controls can be utilized in the dark. If you can settle for basic MPG information (it isn't a hybrid), this dashboard is exceptional. Looking ahead, I'd suggest a simple fully digital high resolution dashboard display with (simulated) analog or digital gauges. With an iPhone style touchscreen user interface to move around the display elements, each user could get exactly what they want without studying the manual. Unless a personalized driver was recognized, the screen would display default settings.



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