The evolution of digital interfaces in our cars


For many years now, digital interfaces in cars have been more and more present. Historicaly the first screens were made to sell cars, as a commercial argument. It was supposed to demonstrate the capacity of innovation of a brand. Renault and its R. 11 Electronic,Fiat with it’s Typo are two exemples of it though it didn’t bring any added value.

           Renault 11 Electronic / Fiat Typo

Later on, digital screens got more into explaining how tehnology based products really work. The idea was to put as much infos as possible even in small space like on car’s radios.

Then GPS and onboard computers appeared, giving our cars native digital screens. Today carmakers are going much further to reach 100% digital dashboards : Audi and it’s latest TT or the S Model of Tesla with its 17 inch screen.

Audi TT/ Tesla Model S

The advantage of these new dashboards is to combine the functions of a multimedia screen and of a traditional car dashboard on a single screen.  In the Audi case, the german carmaker, the driver can switch from a « classical » mode to a « multimedia » or « GPS » one. In the case of the S Model, the driver can intervene on all the car’s settings in its smallest settings from AC to suspensions.

But when it comes to analyzing the complexity of the Tesla interface for instance, we would have imagined something simpler. What about the « distractive notion » ? Was it  really forgotten by the designers ? Between the informations of the car, the interface buttons, the screen light (too weak in daylight), I will let you imagine how the driver would focus on the road. In terms of security and ergonomics the designer could have done better.

Smartphones also play a key role in the digitalization of cars.  With there native connectivity and there multiple applications. The Renault Twingo R & Go application for instance, unables the drivers to connect there smartphones, to navigate, to call handfree, to listen to music or even consult the car technical datas. The interface itself is well  designed : clear and intuitive. Google and Apple also work on their own onboard systems with CarPlay developed by Apple and Ouvert Automotive Alliance developed by Google (OAA)

 R & GO de Renault / CarPlay Musique app d’Apple 

Other display modes like overhead screens  also had their try but they didn’t really work out mainly because of ergonomic problems and their distractive aspects.  Windscreen screens are also developed to bring new experience in the future. Screens that will enable to work and play on the windscreen itself. PSA and its concept car Chrysalide work on it. Take a look at the video.

Making this overview of car interfaces, we think that there is still a lot to do in terms of ergonomics, security and design. These aspects are still neglected by most carmakers. It is funny to see how advanced the interactive design and  web applications are compared to what is made in the cars.

Here are a few exemples of bad practices : ergonomics being too complex, informations being badly organized, ugly designs not matching with carmarkers quality standards…..and so on

Range Rover Sport / Jaguar F type / Lamborghini Reventon 

These bad practices from such famous carmakers, illustrate that we are still at the begining of a new era of major improvements. There are endless possibilities that will certainly follow our new habits and use of cars. Let’s hope that carmakers will go towards much simpler interfaces that won’t necessit a 300 pages manual ! Let’s bet they will need us : the digital agencies !