Tomorrow's car experience, today

The emergence of technology in the car industry is changing the driver’s experience forever. More strides are made toward digitalization. Cockpit screens are standardized wider. And physical controls are soon to be a product of yesterday.

Current car companies are moving toward digitalization—but largely miss the mark. The driving experience is more than driving itself: entertainment, climate control, navigation, security, and so much more determine the pleasure and ease of a drive. But the UX and UI are years behind what today’s standards should be. To compensate for this lack and cut costs, they often opt for subpar tier solutions such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Tomorrow’s vehicles will provide seamless assistive features to improve the driver’s experience, enhance safety onboard for all, and guarantee top-notch security to the outside world.

The flex mode experiment

What should today’s onboard experience look and feel like?

On a drive, any typical task has the potential to dangerously distract the driver. Using cognitive psychology and Hick’s law on the cognitive load—which states that the time to make a decision increases with the complexity of information—I explored different options and screen shapes to optimize the driver experience. 

These are my findings: a flexible interface concept that is simple, natural, and innovative.

Fits and folds for all

My vision for the Car XP folds for any user and any situation. In this design, individuality and universality meet—because an interface should be intuitive for all, but also have flexibility for each person’s needs.

We can customize our smartphones, right? They all look and work the same (especially if you have an iPhone). But once you open the home screen, each phone will contain a different world. Depending on uses, habits, and preferences, each phone is personalized for its user.

So why shouldn’t you be able to personalize the experience of your car? As a driver, I don’t care about changing the color of my control screen. Instead, I want my car to deliver what I really need. Maybe I use the GPS every single day. If so, I want it to be as visible as the interface for my favorite Mariah Carey tracks. And I want to be able to know that I’m not about to back up into a fire hydrant.

And how can I manage all those controls and alerts at the same time, and in the way that makes sense for me? With the flex mode, I can customize my own experience—just how I like.

A work in progress

As I'm going further on this project, I keep facing challenges after challenges and questions after questions.

How to make the customizable experience match my expectations ? What consequences on the interface, will have the gestures on the screen ? So many questions for which I’m trying to find solutions. What you see here is actually my work in progress concerning the Flex mode and the elements’ adaptability. I’ll keep updating theses screenshots and my process as I push this project further.

Get what you need, when you need

The control bar. It’s becoming the standard in all new vehicles. But it's typically only used for navigation.
What I propose is to make it contextual.

The control bar will be an extention of the screen at any given time—meaning that it will evolve with the driver’s needs by providing additional action options and information depending on the situation.

For example: I’m driving from my home in the 17th arrondissement to my parents’ place in the suburbs. I need the GPS to give me traffic information to avoid rush hour crowding and locate electric chargers on the way there, in case my battery is low. Plus, I’d want to adjust climate control temperatures, activate the A/C, alter the air recycling, and more.

With this contextual control bar, I will be able to use these functions at the same time, without jumping between applications. And when I’m done, the bar will reset to its basic mode.

From your fingertips

I chose to first experiment on the climate control feature.
It’s a classic, high-use control—and a ripe opportunity for innovation.

I asked myself: What would be the easiest way to control the airflow? How could I best depict the air in the vehicle? How could I simplify this feature—without oversimplifying?

One of the answers I discovered is to allow the driver to trace the direction of the airflow. 

With your fingertip, you could directly command the flow and instantly see the result. And because the visualization is clear and immediate, adjusting the airflow will require less attention while driving than with other traditional systems.

One of the only car manufacturers unrolling this kind of feature is Tesla. But I propose to push it further. The user should be able to see the temperatures of the flows, as well as control the circulation pattern from the vehicle’s front to rear.