User interface (UI) and the connected car

In-car connectivity has seen significant growth over the past decade, and the capabilities of the connected car are only set to evolve.

For consumers in the connected car age, the question that arises is how increasing connectivity will change the user interface of the car and subsequently, the effect this will have upon user experience?

It is agreed amongst industry experts that the volume of information drivers will handle will exponentially increase. When it comes to infotainment, there will be huge potential for manufacturers to offer a richer and more comprehensive infotainment experience to drivers and passengers.

When providing this enhanced experience, it will be of vital importance that the extra sensory load does not cause additional distractions. A raft of measures will be required to counter this.

>See also: Taking voice interaction to the next level

One such measure is how artificial intelligence could lead to improved voice control in the car. Such conversational interfaces will be the new ‘buttons’. Through natural language understanding (NLU) and automated speech recognition (ASR), the communication between human and machine works in a very accurate, scalable way.

While this type of control will vary according to the functionality required, conversational interfaces will greatly increase and will be the key to a better user experience and consumer engagement.

Another way which will further negate the need for a physical ‘button’ is the evolution of gesture recognition technology. As part of the FANCI Project, a European Commission research programme, HARMAN has been instrumental in the development of this technology.

Such technology allows the driver to give multiples hand cues to control functions, such as answering a phone call or turning up the volume of the car’s stereo system.

>See also: The present and future of connected car data

As artificial intelligence and gesture control improve, the user interface will become more complex with more capability than ever before. It is likely that the need to touch hard keys could decrease or even disappear altogether.

People can also expect the amount of displays to not only increase in number, but also for those displays get bigger, better and faster. For example, expect to see traditional mirrors replaced with camera systems.

New technology will bring brighter and sharper screens to the car. While no technology at present meets automotive grade standards for such an innovation, a new technology that improves image definition and colour saturation called Quantum Dot is showing promising signs that this concept may soon be a reality. While other similar technologies such as OLED, claim to be able to do this, Quantum Dot is more able to meet automotive cost targets.

Whilst strides are being made to create expansive user interfaces, it will be the transformation to full autonomy that will see the starkest changes to user experience.

Once autonomy is achieved the current safety paradigm will cease to apply. When a driver no longer needs to be involved in the driving process, a whole new area of real estate will come into play – car windows.

The opportunity to integrate windows as part of the user interface will be available, in the form of full-windscreen head-up display and side window display technology.

This will dramatically alter the user experience within the car. The windscreen and other windows in the car will essentially become additional displays with the ability to overlay graphics onto them – offering the use of augmented reality systems. The potential of this technology could be vast and encompass anything from directional display, the flagging of upcoming hazards or highlighting potential points of interest to you as an individual.

All these enhancements to the in-car experience will combine and contribute to form a digital cockpit, far removed from what we have today. The user interface of the car will become unrecognisable.

While much is uncertain one thing we can say is that it is an extremely exciting time for those connected to the industry, but also and perhaps more so, for consumers.


Sourced from Rashmi Rao, head of advanced engineering and user experience at Harman

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...