Touchscreen Controls for Driving-Critical Functions Should Be Reconsidered By Automakers
The minimalist console design which eliminates almost all hard key controls is undoubtedly visually appealing, while the inclusion of an advanced-for-its-class voice assistant allows flexible input for a wide range of important infotainment-related tasks. But both design features have implications for the UX of key functions in the car and several design flaws were identified within the touchscreen interface.
Overall, the 2020 VW Golf VIII’s infotainment system was ranked solidly in the middle tier of all vehicles evaluated thus far in Strategy Analytics’ proprietary infotainment benchmark algorithm – a ranking system derived by how well a car’s available features correspond to Strategy Analytics’ existing data on consumer interest in advanced infotainment features.
Derek Viita, Senior Analyst, IVX and report author commented, “The elimination of hard key controls in favor of entirely touchscreen-based UX certainly has cost-related benefits, especially for high-volume automakers such as Volkswagen. If a touchscreen can be paired with a powerful voice assistant then it could be argued that the driver would have all the HMI tools they need to safely access the desired entertainment, communication, comfort and navigation functions.”
Continued Viita, “But for this to work, the HMI feature set must be sufficient for key in-car use cases and not overwhelming, the voice assistant must be as flexible as possible, and the touchscreen must be well designed. While the 2020 Golf VIII somewhat delivers on the first two points, its touchscreen design is lacking. The splitting of radio and media sources between two separate menus is extraordinarily confusing, the swipe gesture is over-used to hide redundant menu designs and climate controls are hidden in non-persistent menus.”
Added Chris Schreiner, Director IVX, “VW’s take on screen-based infotainment for the 2020 Golf VIII goes ‘all in.’ But hiding essential features like climate controls and windscreen defoggers in non-persistent menus, or placing them at a nontraditional location in the cockpit, is a questionable design choice: at worst it compromises safety while driving. Given that a German court recently ruled that touchscreen-based wiper controls are a ‘distracting electronic device,’ Western automakers should reconsider designs that involve touchscreen controls for driving-critical functions. Form should not be valued over function.”