I recently participated in a blog for another publication that started off talking about a Kia owner who was frustrated trying to get a warning from his airbag system to go away. It got to a certain point with the dealer's service operation where the technician appeared to have identified the "seat switch" on the passenger side as the proximate cause of the trouble, unfortunately this "switch" turned out to be a complex safety-critical "weight determination system" that could not be replaced apart from replacing the entire seat at a price of $1600! Before he authorized this repair however, the owner attempted to replicate the "subsystem failure" and COULD NOT, leading to a suspicion that the field test on this subsystem was not performed correctly - and of course he STILL was left without either a proper diagnosis or a working vehicle! Now it likely isn't very "fair" of me but I'll add this to the large proportion of visits to repair shops that have left me feeling that I got very poor "value received for time and funds spent" and I wind up sensing that this type of design would not be likely to improve my "customer experience".
Sure I'll concede that "virtual gauges" have a long and successful history even on the various space programs, I was even present on a project where it could be argued that the premise of "virtual test equipment" was more or less invented. But I'm concerned that if I've got one "master display" which simulates the only actual "representation" of my speedometer, tach, oil and water gauges etc., any failure that even calls into question that subsystem could very well render the vehicle "undrivable" even in an emergency. And how many of you have gone through having an ECU or other fairly costly part replaced when the actual flaw turned out to be just a spark plug or cable? And do you really want some trade-school tech grad tearing apart your entire dashboard with glee at the first sign of a "display symptom" if it looks like it shows the possibility of generating a high repair bill and more revenue for the shop?
Yeah I guess if we get to the point where "self-driving cars" are the norm and a certain amount of system integration is almost inevitable, AND the "care and feeding" of these subsystems has advanced to the point where the issues I've mentioned aren't really serious concerns anymore (or if I got rich enough so I JUST DIDN'T CARE and wanted this gee-whiz technology at almost any cost) then I guess I'd say fine, bring it on. But for right now I live in the REAL world and I view this technology about as welcome in my vehicle as a hornet's nest! Sorry if that makes me look like a luddite!
@selinz, that is brilliant! I have never thought about comparing automotive MHI issue with Digital Single Lens Reflex camera!
It's really about the convenience of doing what you need to do. If we look at dslr for guidence, the higher end dslr's basically have more knobs, switches, rockers, etc. such that you can make adjustments without having to look, that is, be distracted.
It should be obvious that touch screens are a no-go.First, because the driver needs to concentrate on the screen, to know what to touch. And even more, because roads are not perfectly flat, and the driver can't follow his fat finger all the way to the screen, while he's driving. Controls need to be grabbable,
Very well put. As far as I could tell, the auto industry is so swept upon on this digital/smartphone/tablet/touch screen evolution...which doesn't make sense.
Human factors and ergonomics is supposed to be a serious engineering discipline. What the automakers are struggling with has been studied at some length already, by the aerospace industry. They should read up on lessons learned.
I have to say, Audi and BMW seem to be close to the mark. Making the instrument cluster digital, and emulating analog instruments, makes good sense. For instance, people don't care exactly how many gallons, quarts, and pints of fuel they have in the tank. What they need to be given is a lightning fast indication of where we are in the range of possibilities. Same goes for temperature, speed, and so on. Analog display works best. And there's no objective reason why the gauges need to be "real." Virtual works fine, to impart visual info. And virtual gauges have the advantage of flexibility, including being user-adjustable.
As to controls, come now. It should be obvious that touch screens are a no-go. First, because the driver needs to concentrate on the screen, to know what to touch. And even more, because roads are not perfectly flat, and the driver can't follow his fat finger all the way to the screen, while he's driving. Controls need to be grabbable, in well known locations, never needing the driver to take his eyes off the road. Automakers themselves have learned these lessons, over the decades. It's a wonder that they need to re-learn, no? All manner of dash-mounted switches have migrated to stalks on the steering column, over the years. Looks like some of these good ideas may be regressing?
That one dashboard-wide display is awful! Although of course, no problem giving the passengers information. Still, how is determination of ugliness so elusive?
It's really about the convenience of doing what you need to do. If we look at dslr for guidence, the higher end dslr's basically have more knobs, switches, rockers, etc. such that you can make adjustments without having to look, that is, be distracted. Can you imagine having to navigate through menus to turn on the defroster? That would be a disaster.
In the best smart phone-auto interfaces, they turn the screen into 6 large squares that are easily readable that allow you to do different types of tasks. Hitting the music button gives you more options, hopefully all easily seen without having to spend more than 1/10 of a second glance to see it. The nesting of menus allows for other options that "fixed" UI's do not but also require some familiarity. While that "cockpit" feel is enhanced by a slick monitor in the middle, it's not a cockpit without a bunch of switches and buttons that can be accessed. I'll keep my defroster button, thank you.
@Tunrayo, I am with you all the way! Figuring out the auto HMI is a lot more complicated (and it is a different animal) than GUI innovation on smartphones. It has to be more than visual simplicity, precisely because a driver needs to keep his eyes on the road.
Hopefully they won't change things too much Junko! :-)
I totally love the traditional car dashboard with the dial and digital displays. And what would we do without those flippers, knobs and buttons? - They are great because they enable us control different features on the car and keep our eyes on the road at the same time.
I don't mind the introduction of "new tech stuff" - such as having an integrated iPad somewhere in the middle of the dashboard to handle different applications...However, having those physical controls as opposed to some flat screen helps us concetrate on the road. :-)
Considering a lot of information coming into a vehicle (ADAS, GPS, apps from smartphones, etc.), how to condense and simplify that data and display it in the most effective manner to a driver is going to be a huge challenge.
And what we just saw at the CES this year is jus the beginning...
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