Technology in Cars

About a couple of years back I had started thinking about how the cars would be in future. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Americans spend more than 500 million commuter hours’ per week in their automobiles. That’s represents a large part of people’s lives.

Here is how the dashboards have changed:


It’s just same thing, but tons more added. We have learned to use it through evolution but it’s not simple in any way.

So how does one controll all this – through buttons .. many buttons.. and more recently through knobs or joysticks. This is an extremely clunky form of interaction. One has to navigate through a deep heirarcy of menu one step at a time. look at the number of buttins on the Ford steering wheel below:


Where have we seen this before ?


And this is completely changes since the iPhone came about… 🙂

So how can the car interface change ? There are two important elements:

a) The Screen where user is presented infirmation. This needs to be high resolution, high brightness, with a fast processor to ensure instant response.

b) An input mechanism that required little to no focus on the screen.

For the second part people are trying following:

  1. Scroll Wheel / Joystick – this is kind of like the original iPod approach. Anyone who has used it knows it’s a pain to go through the menus and select using this thing. They just need a lot of attention.
  2. Voice – like Siri – Vocie reognition will be an extremely likely solution but it’s not there yet. We have learnt that through automated customer service systems. granted that the focus on this technology is becoming more main -stream. But even with that , voice is good as a search element as it is less predictable then a button click. A button click is definite, voice command is open to interpretation and can change beacuse of many variables – voice quality, noise level, accent etc.

So what else can be done ?

Gesture based nav

I think many of the common tasks that a person needs to do , especially while driving can be handled through gestures. Gestures are predictable, yet requires very little atention. With that in mind I think the buttons on the steering wheel need to be replaced with a touch pad instead.

So following changes from:




Here are some common gestures:

  1. tap and hold – Brings up a menu of the favorite apps
  2. swipe moves the cursor
  3. single tap selects the app
  4. Swipes also move from one object (like one email) to another.

Here is a simple email interface


The voice system reads out the email. The interface is simple and clean and only focusses on the main conetnt. The green color acts as a progress bar.

Here is a contextual menu that may come up on a gestures like double tap:


One thought on “Technology in Cars

  1. Take my old tablet, use IFTTT to connect to my phone and much better than built-in navigation systems that are subpar to Google maps. And that’s just for starters and – carmakers can’t keep up simple needs in a car.

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