Volvo echoes Tesla with touch-tablet style digital dash

Feb 27, 2014
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Volvo echoes Tesla with touch-tablet style digital dash

Volvo has been showing off its vision of the next-gen dashboard, following Tesla in using a console-dominating touchscreen rather than dozens of physical buttons. Set to hit the market in the Volvo XC90 later this year, the new system uses a stack of UI "tiles" focused on different key points of in-car functionality, with shortcut controls on the wheel for when it's too risky to reach out and stab an on-screen button.

The four tiles consist of Navigation first, then Media, Telephone, and finally Climate Control. That order is very deliberate, Volvo says, since it keeps the navigation information nice and high so it's easy to glance at while on the move, while everything else is closer to reach out and tap.

In addition to the touchscreen, there are controls for navigating around the interface as well as triggering the voice-command system on the steering wheel. The driver binnacle also has a high-res display too, slaved to the center-stack.

"This goes far beyond just putting a large tablet in the centre of the dashboard." Thomas Ingenlath, SVP of design at Volvo, said of the system. "We have created a digital environment that is fully integrated in the car."

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Familiar from Android and iOS, a slim notification band sits at the top of the screen for urgent alerts. Each of the four tiles expands when selected to display all of its features.

Although touchscreen-centric interfaces have become more popular in cars in recent years, there remain lingering questions around whether they're the safest way to interact with infotainment systems. The NHTSA is considering regulating exactly what they can and cannot show, and for how long, while research indicates that hands-free features like voice-control may be no better at preventing distraction.

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Ford is among the manufacturers who have announced plans to re-introduce physical controls as a result, citing both safety concerns and specific requests from owners.

The new dashboard will debut inside the Volvo Concept Estate at the Geneva Motor Show next month. Its commercial launch, however, will be in the new XC90, which will use the company's Drive-E engine architecture.


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