Visual-haptic interfaces in car design by BMW

 Alec Bernstein, Bernd Bader, Klaus Bengler and Hermann Künzner 

General background

The increasing complexity of information in the car brings is aligned with an increase of the amount of features and a visual overload of knobs, buttons and physical devices. This complexity of features must be balanced against the driver’s need for simplicity, ease of use and safety. Thus there is need of a tool that would free the driver’s attention for driving, while facilitating information access in the car.
Some current automotive solutions that manage information reduce the clutter of knobs and buttons by creating a single on-screen solution. In this paper, we argue that the centralization of information is not the ultimate solution, but the right step towards an intuitive system which marries the ‘feel’ of information with its look.
Another factor frequently referred to in BMW’s user observation studies is the existence of driving ‘modes’ based on conditions such as traffic, weather, passengers, etc. The actual mode of the driver highly affects the driver’s window of comprehension, and with it, the ability to handle information complexity. Considering the limitations on the driver’s attention span, it is necessary to create an interface which takes these modes into account. Again, the need is to reduce complexity and increase intuitiveness.