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Dashboards: Into the future with the simplicity of the past?

Kamil Kaluski December 7, 2017 All Things Hoon 20 Comments

You know what’s great? Apple CarPlay, that’s what. Its Android format is probably not too shabby either but I don’t have any direct experience. Android Auto may actually be better as it has Waze and a bunch other apps not available on Apple CarPlay.

The bottom line is that both systems integrate really well into modern cars’ infotainment systems and their touchscreens. Unlike most systems developed by car companies, these two actually understand voice commands. Furthermore, they are always connected the magical thing called “the internet” and thus are only rarely out of date.

But if so many things that we need are on our phones, our modern essential portable communication devices, neatly displayed on bigger screens, and with an voice interface that seems to work pretty well, how will future dash boards look like? There won’t be a need for all the buttons and knobs we typically associate with dash radios. Will future cars just have a big screen like Teslas do now?

What does that do to our gauges? Those can be shown on a windshield via a head-up display. What will happen then? Will all future dashboards look like a cross between a Tesla Model 3 and the first generation Toyota Prius?

Wireless connections and wireless charging of our devices will further reduce the dashboard clutter. How long until 12v sockets, formerly known as cigarette lighters, disappear? 

Transmission shifters are disappearing, too. With minor exceptions, the manual handbrake has been dead for years. Once manual transmission are completely gone, which is any day now, this will free up a ton of console space, too.

Don’t even get me started on honest keyed ignition switches. 

Perhaps there is a silver lining here. Perhaps this minimization and simplification of dashboards can allow enough space to bring back the three-passenger front bench? Seeing that most engines are transversely mounted now, there is no need for a transmission tunnel, resulting in a lot of space for the middle front passenger. Or will the buying public scream for more cup-holders and bigger console storage for their stuff? Perhaps something I always wanted in my car, a coffee maker?

Even all-wheel-drive cars don’t need a transmission tunnel. The new Toyota Rav4 AWD Hybrid does not have a driveshaft. The rear wheels are power strictly by the small rear-mounted electric motor.

I don’t have the answer to those questions, which is why I am asking them. I am anxiously waiting to see what the automotive future holds for us. I don’t think that driving and automotive passion will dissolve, just as rail passion from centuries ago has not nor airplane passion from decades ago, but perhaps it will reduce just like those two.

Part of me believes that we have reach dashboard design pinnacle in the early 1990s but that just shows my age. There sure as heck were a lot of amazing interior designs in the 1950s and 1960s. And perhaps that is where we are heading? Into the future with the simplicity of the past?

  • Alff

    In the future, the dash will be someone else’s problem.

  • cap’n fast

    there is not enough life span left too me to learn all these new electronic controls. where is the off switch?

    • Sub-menu 4, section 7, line 24

  • MoveOnPorsche

    1955 Citroen DS19

    • That Citroën is nice and all, but I prefer a greater simplicity in my French dashboards.

      • Amoore

        I think you’ve mistaken austerity for simplicity.

      • Rover 1

        Too many wheel spokes.

        • If you think that’s bad, I hesitate to point out the four-lug wheels…

          • Rover 1

            Wow, I thought that small French cars had to have three stud fixings by law, otherwise Smart cars wouldn’t have them.

            Just think of the extra weight you’re carrying round with the extra bolt on each wheel. Perhaps you could offset it by changing the drive stones to pumice?

    • Rover 1

      The future was here and has now gone.

  • Harry Callahan

    Drivetrains intetest me. Dashboards/interiors not so much.

  • HuntRhymesWith

    We will move towards less moving parts, in all cases until we are in floating autonomous maglev pods in Y3K.

  • Krautwursten

    You know what’s great? Knobs and buttons. No fiddly touch garbage. No datamining voice controls.

    • I agree on knobs. Buttons… it depends of quantity and ergonomics for me.

  • njhoon

    I think it will be a simple, clean interior with a touch screen or two. If I know software developers well enough ( I think I do since I hear the endless chatter from the next row of cubes) the screens will be ridiculously complicated or overly simplistic bringing both to the point of uselessness.

  • Luxury Lexus Land-yacht

    I have the sudden urge to buy a 1966 Imperial convertible.

  • Andrew_theS2kBore

    My Elise has a grand total of 11 buttons/switches/dials and somehow still manages to be an ergonomic disaster… Yet I’d rather have 11 oddly placed mechanical controls operating 11 basic systems than the Tesla’s screen. Three basic reasons:

    1. You can perform multiple operations, like turn the headlights and heater on, at the same time, without going in and out of multiple menus.
    2. After a few weeks familiarization, you can operate all the controls by touch, without taking your eyes off the road.
    3. When, not if, something stops working, I can fix it with basic tools.

  • Tiller188

    Man, I didn’t realize how much of an anachronism my car is. It has:

    — Manual transmission (a lowly 5-spd, too; not even a 6th gear!)
    — Manual, lever-actuated handbrake
    — Keyed ignition switch
    — Honest-to-goodness knobs and buttons (many of which are single/dedicated-function), including steering wheel-mounted buttons for easy access, and no touchscreen

    And honestly, were it missing any of those things, I would consider it a loss. Hm. Maybe I’m the anachronism. (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto do make huge amounts of sense for audio and navigation integration, though — providing a general interface in the car to communicate with whatever fancy device the owner might have is way more logical, considering the devices will be upgraded and replaced much more often than the car, on average.)

  • I think my Kizashi pretty much approaches peak dash junk.

  • cap’n fast

    i am angered to the point of violence by automated climate controls. when next i must remove the entire fricking dash assembly and console to replace the blend door actuator module i am going to use a chain saw and sledgehammer!
    a couple of direct acting twistie knobs and a blower switch would please me to no end. AARRRGGHHHH!!!

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