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Why and how C.A.S.E. is shaping the future of HMI design

automotive hmi design solutions

Like all of our season two Shine episodes, the discussion revolves around a Big Why: a foundational question or topic that is impacting industry, design and society. This time, we are exploring why and how in-car connectivity, autonomous driving and electrification are shaping the evolution of human-machine interfaces and in-car experiences.

Special guests M. Ross Gray, Lead Designer, Automotive and Mobility at Star, and Denis Dobre, Design Lead at AutoLiv, join host Tom Hunt for a fast-paced chat brimming with twists, turns and tangents. The ground covered includes the bright future of human-machine interface design, how mobility advancements benefit society, HMI design challenges and the often overlooked obstacles standing in the way of widespread automotive technology adoption. 

This is a fun one, so go on and take a listen. We have compiled a brief summary and key takeaways from the discussion below. 

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The most exciting leaps in HMI design and in-car connectivity

Ross sets the stage by explaining the global HMI market is poised for explosive growth and expected to climb from $24.75 billion in 2021 to $64.5 billion by 2030. Why is this automotive segment growing so fast? The answer comes down to four letters: C.A.S.E, which stands for Connectivity, Autonomous, Sharing/Subscription and Electrification.  

The experts zero in on specific HMI technology solutions. These include next-generation cockpits and HMI screen design that artfully blend the physical and digital worlds; in-car AI assistants like NIO, an award-winning co-pilot designed by Star; and gamification and entertainment elements with the potential to create new realities. “Your car can make it feel as if you’re traveling through a forest or the Sahara versus sitting in traffic outside Heathrow airport,” M. Ross explains. But are drivers ready for that?

Common industrial HMI design challenges

The discussion organically evolves from a big-picture, “blue skies” take on human-machine interface design, to an in-depth look at industrial HMI design challenges. Denis says it can be difficult to determine which elements to include in each instrument cluster and to create an engaging HMI screen design without distracting the driver. You don’t want your car “singing Jingle Bells or showing different images on the cluster while the driver is on a motorway,” he explains. 

Later on in the talk, M. Ross brings up another automotive HMI technology challenge: finding “future proof” concepts. To do so, you must understand HMI design best practices and take a user-centric approach to development. You also need to understand and predict industrial HMI design trends. Here are three intriguing ones that came up in the talk:

  • The rise of the mobile office: In-car connectivity advancements have inspired companies to explore ways to transform vehicles into mobile offices, Denis says. But how easy is it to host a Zoom call from the car?
  • Marrying the in-car experience with life outside: The out-of-car experience is a major influencer of in-car experience design.  “I want my car to be able to predict my day. HMI is now becoming more of a conduit between I’m at home and I’m over here,” M. Ross notes.
  • Your car as your therapist: Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the automotive industry has been placing a greater onus on health and wellbeing. M. Ross imagines a world where your car alleviates the stress of sitting in traffic so you walk in the door refreshed rather than frustrated. “It’s almost like you could have a therapist in your car on the way home so when you get home to your spouse or partner, you’re ready to open up to them,” he says.

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Human-machine interface design in a dream world versus reality

Designing HMI for a utopia, in which everyone owns an autonomous, connected car is one thing. Reality is another. HMI design and development solutions experts are contending with real-world challenges, including non-technical ones which aren’t discussed as often as cybersecurity risks.  

Denis groups non-technical challenges into four categories, including infrastructure and mentality. In many regions, HMI technology is advancing faster than the public’s appetite for progress. “People’s mindsets have to change in order to keep the pace with this extremely rapid development,” he says. 

How many people are ready to give up manual driving, and how can companies and cities help people make that transition? What does the public think of electric vehicles (EVs)? Are they convinced the pros outweigh the cons? You can’t consider the future of human-machine interface design without addressing these questions. 

Furthermore, what happens when software accelerates past hardware? How can consumers use older vehicles with outdated HMI technology to their full potential? On the other hand, how can in-car connectivity and autonomous driving reach their potential if the majority of the cars on the road are decades old? Our podcast guests consider what it takes to update older vehicles so they can become active players in the connected car ecosystem.

The positive impact of HMI and in-car connectivity on the world

The final question Tom asks is about the positive impact of HMI technology solutions and in-car connectivity. According to our experts, benefits could include:

  • the end of road rage,
  • a new job description for police officers, since they will spend less time dealing with traffic violations,
  • an opportunity to rethink exterior car design and even turn cars into rolling sculptures that make the world more beautiful.

Positive changes are already underway when it comes to design processes. EVs’ simplified design and elevated UX are inspiring fossil fuel-burning vehicles, other mobility modes and even other industries to rethink their own processes and adopt more user-centric approaches.

Advanced technologies require user-centric human-machine interface design processes

You can’t create cutting-edge experiences without new industrial HMI design processes. In a user-centric design process, the kind used by Star, designers begin with end-user research so they can build HMI solutions that meet drivers’ unique needs. Additionally, modern HMI design and development solutions require a cross-disciplinary approach, in which designers and developers work together to create seamless experiences that straddle the physical and digital worlds. 

For more on the immediate HMI design implications of autonomous and connected driving, as well as awe-inspiring predictions for the future of automotive HMI technology, check out the podcast. We think you will enjoy the ride, and learn something, too.    

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