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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
@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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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!
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.
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.
@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!
i am very glad that regulatory bodies such as NHTA are still actively involved:)
@EE,etc. Thanks for your thorough response, as usual.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.