How a connected car’s instrument cluster can be redesigned for contextual empathy

The connected car is the focus of a lot of speculation about uses for contextual data feeds. The visions are exciting, whether of helmet-mounted cyclist beacons or biometric apps to stop drivers falling asleep at the wheel.

But they derive from car makers without a long track record in the kind of human-centred thinking that constitutes best practice in interaction design. Or they come from technology companies whose over-riding ambition is to transplant their operating systems into automotive environments. Taking all the visions together would mean drowning in a sea of data, or more aptly being driven to distraction.Bild Mit Peugeot vernetzt klein

Instead, we need to go back to first principles. We need to start with people and their need for the right information or functionality at the right time in the very specific environment of a car. This means having what we call ‘contextual empathy’.

An empathy for context, rather than a love for contextual data, almost certainly means ‘less’ overall: Fewer types of data feed than envisaged will find a place in what will become recognised as the ‘new normal’ model for the automotive human-machine interface (HMI). But paradoxically it could also mean ‘more’ in specific circumstances and with appropriate design considerations.

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