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The Evolution of the Car Interface

San Antonio: heading towards the mountains

If you’re an early riser, drive a car to work and are an heavy iPod user then you’ve probably been confronted with a drained car battery at the end of the day. Why?

Because the car lights are switched on when you leave home; the iPod is increasingly being worn in-car (who wants to listen to a 20th century model of advertising-interrupted content when you can totally control your listening experience?); the iPod with a superior pair of earbuds offers a similar/comforting/superior audio experience to that available in-car; the visual design cues on the dashboard, typically an illuminated headlight icon is difficult to notice by the time you arrive in full day light at your destination; and the secondary design cues – often a continuos high-pitched sound is difficult to hear when you’re still wearing earbuds. Personal cocooned content being listened from door to (car) door to door and on occasion the lights stay on, the battery drains.

It’s a wonderful, if sometimes road-dangerous form of behavioural leakage – where well established practices (personal stereo for mood management, listening to ~music, cocooning) leaks into unexpected spaces (the car with its ‘superior’ in-car stereo, limited content in compromised format). And whilst it’s probably too much of a niche distraction for their design teams to be bothered with I’m intrigued what a purely Apple designed in-car hub would look like.

Every forward looking automotive manufacturer has been thinking about vehicles as connected objects for quite some time. To what extent is it acceptable for the manufacturer to modify interface elements such as secondary design cues after the vehicle has been sold? Is there a point when consumers expect to be able to fully adapt their in-car and out-car interface? Does the pressure to be able to adapt come from consumers; legislation?