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User-friendly controls

User-friendly controls

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Behind The Wheel

This photo provided by BMW shows an example of a modern infotainment system that has multiple methods of input. Users can interact with the system via the touchscreen, control knob or buttons on the dashboard.

Contemporary automotive interior design is best characterized as a vendetta against clutter, so much so that we saw a phase of automakers eliminating useful buttons and knobs. Meanwhile, technologies and features are deepening. Fewer physical controls yet more settings can quickly lead to driver distraction and frustration, so a well-orchestrated user interface is critical. To their credit, a number of automakers listened to customer feedback and restored buttons for critical functions.

BMW’s iDrive system is an excellent example of operational redundancy. Users can touch the infotainment screen, control settings via a rotary dial and hot keys on the console, turn buttons on the steering wheel, or opt for voice commands. Audi employs haptic and auditory feedback on its infotainment touchscreens to give operators a cue that their input has been received — without visual confirmation. Most new vehicles offer a combination of some of or all of these tools, allowing drivers to use their preferred interface.


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