I attended an excellent automotive HMI conference in Europe last week, with attendees from many of the top OEMs and tier-1 suppliers. As we all know, automotive HMI is a complicated subject, and hence topics ranged from driver distraction, workload management, usability studies, the desire of drivers to access their favourite internet applications in the car and the recently published NHTSA driver distraction guidelines . I will talk about some of these other topics in future posts, and focus on the topic of “joy of use” in this post.
I chaired a series of lively round-table discussions concerned with joy of use of automotive HMI. Not surprisingly there was an overwhelming consensus that despite all of the complexity surrounding automotive HMIs, one of the top priorities for OEMs is to provide their customers with HMIs that are indeed a joy to use. When asked what makes an infotainment or instrument cluster HMI a joy to use it was agreed that this was a combination of functionality, ease of use, and a HMI design which is “a pleasure to the eye”. In fact there was general consensus that a balance between these factors is important, and that sometimes ease of use needs to be compromised to ensure that HMIs are a pleasure to look at!
It was agreed that consumer HMIs were leading the way in joy of use and that in the future automotive HMIs will incorporate more advanced effects to achieve much richer and more appealing HMIs (e.g. reflections, glossy surfaces, sophisticated lighting, etc, – as shown in the example Instrument Cluster HMI concept below. One OEM noted that they invested a huge amount in to achieving a sophisticated and classy image in both their vehicle design and brand marketing but they had some catching up to do with their HMI design!
We discussed whether OEMs would like to refresh their HMIs post-sale. Not surprisingly there were opposing views on this topic; there were questions over the cost, however it was noted that perhaps more enlightened OEMs were already requesting proposals from Tier-1 suppliers to enable HMI (and other software) updates as part of standard servicing. This is not surprising – the concept of upgrades is already established in the consumer world, particularly in smartphones. Updates serve two purposes – to add new functionality and to fix bugs. These motives apply equally to the automotive world – adding new functionality helps retain customer loyalty and although OEMs hope that their Infotainment systems are bug free, the more complex the systems become, the greater the number of bugs that will slip past. Upgrading HMIs will become an important factor in helping to achieve continued joy of use.
Achieving joy of use in automotive HMI isn’t easy, however it was refreshing to see that this is a key priority for the automotive industry.