How Can the Digital Cockpit be Designed to Improve the Consumer Experience?

The digital cockpit as an experiential hub must serve more than just entertainment and control needs—it must improve safety and comfortably be the perfect companion for a digital life.

Bracing for the Future of Car HMI

During these rapidly changing times, we’re experiencing both anticipation and anxiety towards the car of the future. Drivers are curious as to what they’ll be driving—even whether they’re going to be driving at all.


So how do we make sure we’re ready to make this transition? Recent self-driving reports indicate that we’re not ready—yet. This realization leads to an even bigger question: How do we ensure we’re not just perpetuating a worldwide science experiment and creating vehicles people really want?

Human Machine Interface (HMI)

HMI is the principal point of contact between the user and the process (in this instance, their vehicle). A modern car is an intimate space. As this concept is intermingled with the great unknown, an entire population waits with bated breath to see what this new, modified beast will look like and discover how feral it will be. 

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“Today’s automotive cockpit is fully connected, improves safety and elevates the in-vehicle experience. HMI is an integral part of the overall experience as it creates a comfortable environment for consumers. And in a time where consumers need to be careful about every surface they touch, gesture recognition technology in vehicles to prevent unnecessary contact is growing rapidly.”


Mohan Krishnaraj
Vice President and Global Head, User Experience
HARMAN International

What sets HMI apart from other interaction profiles?

  • It is acutely defined by its environment of use (more so than phones or computers)
  • Has a much stronger tie-in to functional operability
  • It is a machine that travels with both its environment and its operator
  • Has a specific function it was built for
  • Can house multiple activities above and beyond its primary function    
     

HMI—much bigger than creating a perfect dashboard design

One must look at the bigger picture of human-to-service interactions within any industry to fully understand how its human-to-machine interactions will transform. Similarly, what is changing in the overall human-to-car relationship and how is it defining the development of today’s car HMI? 


Here are some trends shaping the future of in-car experiences:

Hard and soft interactions (and everything in-between)

The dynamic between hard and soft car interactions is constantly evolving. From using dials and buttons to control what’s on the screen, to thoughtfully-engineering steering wheel controls and to using a full-fledged touch screen—what is the intuitive baseline? 


From car to car, the controls keep changing in their sensibility. One can expect a greater surface area of the new digital cockpit to be covered in displays and a high degree of smart touch integrated into them. While the physicality of interactions becomes more intangible, it must remain rooted in physical memory. 

It must also identify degrees of transformation with every interaction point. When a user wanted to change the volume in his car, he unthinkingly reached out for a constant dial/button that he was assured would always be in the same place and would never move. If that same volume control moves to a touchscreen dashboard and disappears once he’s done changing the volume, he’s going to have to use a greater portion of his cognitive ability each time he wants to change the volume. While designing every interaction, the user’s underlying expectations of constancy need to be identified, mapped and maintained even if outward forms of interaction may change.

Understanding visual vs touchable interactions

What can simply be consumed visually, what needs a hard/physical interaction component? What are the satisfaction triggers in current car interactions and how can we maintain them going forward?


Transitioning away from the physical must be slow and measured. Touchless haptic feedback created in the air with ultrasonic waves can be a useful way to cushion the transition and help users more easily adjust to gestural control. The future of HMI has been unleashed. Get ready for a ride like we’ve never seen before. For more information on Automotive UI & HMI Design capabilities provided by HARMAN’s Design Agency - HUEMEN, click here.
 

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