We all are blown away with Tesla's massive touch screen, sitting boldly right in the center console all the way to the gear shifts. It looks great. I mean the colors, the layout, the theme. All straight out of a space ship. And it surely does increase our greedy desires to have the same on our regular cars too. And guess what?
Our car manufactures are bundling the all screen infotainment systems for our cars now. It's great and we all have just one another reason to go for specific car brand, thanks to the new shiny all glass infotainment systems with large screens coming as a standard for most of our cars now.
As good as they look on the car and gets eye balls rolling as another conversation starter, this all new shiny glass panels with screens inbuilt, may not be the one meant to be on roads.
I drive a 2014 Ford Ecosports. It does not have a touch screen. It has small screen with non touch responsive display sitting right in front of the center console which keeps telling me my active radio station, or mode is on such as USB/Bluetooth/CD/Radio, AC and defogger details. I have buttons associated to every behavior which are hard physical buttons.
Even the AC has a very tiny display only showing the temperature but has all buttons around it nicely placed and within my reach with light indicators to show me which one is active.
Now driving around this car for almost 5 years now, I have got quite used to the interface. My fingers have registered what button does what and I by not even looking can change modes, play songs, make calls or even manipulate the Air-con. My muscle memory has registered everything with my brain.
Everything was great! And it became even better after my getting getting the swanky Honda City that my wife bought, the most sought out car of this part of the region. Everyone just loves that car. So much that it single-handedly kept the revenue of Honda up through just this car.
I have always been a fan of shift sticks or lets say Manual gears than Automatic. But the City's automatic is really great! You actually don't feel that sudden pull while shifting through the onboard computers. Anyways, that's not what I want to talk about and in case you want to read some reviews on Honda City, please visit any car blog site.
Coming down to the point, I started taking the Honda City for regular spins. and started playing with the touch screen it provided. And that's when the Alarm bells started sounding for me.
Here's how the console of the new Honda City looks like
Even the AC control is touch enabled with absolutely no physical buttons to operate.
Now that's what a modern edge design is... Or is it?
While driving the Honda City around I realized, that very minimal attention was given to to UX for infotainment while driving the car. I was spending more time in figuring out where to touch to activate music source, or turning on defogger or changing the air-con temperature and spending less time focusing on the road which is completely dangerous.
And all this because my brain is tamed with the muscle memory, unlike for touch where I am constantly trying to concentrate where to touch. I never faced that with my Ecosport.
This brings me to the point that, majorly all car manufacturers are just building things which already existed without working closely to understand the user behavior. However, you may not find this in some very well known car manufacturers like Volvo and Audi. They have invested a lot in understanding the user behavior and human interactions. The touch screens in those high-end cars are all well researched and accompanied with physical buttons to make sure the drivers eyes are well on the road.
I know many of you will say, that I shouldn't be using car infotainment system while driving and all that jazz. And I do agree, but at times, you need to change that car temperature, or source of music. And I really feel we can built better systems for infotainment for cars using touch. Haptic can also be used here or voice can play a great role in car infotainment system.
I mean how different is it than using a mobile phone while driving or navigating through the touch enabled infotainment systems of the car?
There are small pockets of hope. For example, Ford's new CEO, Jim Hackett, is a disciple of Ideo (the Silicon Valley design firm responsible for the first Apple mouse, the Palm V organizer and the Swiffer). He set up Greenfield Labs within Ford—a group of designers, psychologists, anthropologists and data scientists who are collaborating with Ideo to bring human-centric design to cars.
Well, okay. Here's hoping their work bears fruit fairly soon. Because at the moment, the car companies' dashboard interfaces are a disaster. Or, to put it another way: they need a big revamp on the UX part of it.
What are your thoughts on the same? Do you or have you also felt the same with the touch screen entertainment system of the car? Share your thoughts and views on this.
All the views, suggestion and opinions are mine and are not advocated or promoted for a brand. Credits of the images goes to individual artists and creators for their utmost beautiful pieces of visuals and artwork. - Portfolio : www.abhishekmukherjee.net
Abhishek Mukherjee is a creative designer/consultant and UX strategist who loves to play with visuals and designs. He is an evangelist who has passion in brand and design.