Home » A Little Car On Your Dashboard To Control Stuff: Is It A Dumb Idea?

A Little Car On Your Dashboard To Control Stuff: Is It A Dumb Idea?

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I’m not sure if it’s age, a long history of blows to the cranium, a past of questionable drug choices, or a present of too many of whatever chemicals are in Diet Coke that everyone is trying to tell me will kill me, but I think I’m losing the ability to distinguish dumb ideas from less-dumb ideas. I’m bringing this up to you now because I just had an idea whose idiocy I cannot quite determine. So, to settle this in the most reliable, least-intrusive way possible, I’m going to tell all of you all about it and you can tell me what you think, because, just between me and you, everyone else is an idiot. You know I’m right. Anyway, now I need you to consider this idea:What if most of your car’s controls were accessed via a little model car mounted on your dashboard?

Dash Car

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It seems both like a good and idiotic idea to me; almost like what a child would come up with. But then I think about the mess that so many car dashboards and instrument panels are, with switches and controls laid out via, it often seems, the same way that you lay out the location of a couple dozen M&Ms by dumping the bag out onto a table. Sure, you get used to most of the controls, but for so many the location is still awkward and forgettable and, oh, maybe it doesn’t have to be like this?

So, what if we tried something like this:

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What if, and work with me here, there was a little simple model of a car on the dashboard, mounted on a little swiveling and tilting base. The little car would have sub-surface lights that would illuminate to show what areas are able to be interacted with, like doors and windows and trunks and so on. You want to unlock a door? Tap it. You want to roll down a window? Swipe your finger on the window you want up or down. Open the trunk? Give it a tap. Is your brake light out? Look on the little car – its lights will mimic the outside lights on the car, brakes, turn signals, headlights, whatever. Want the rear foglamp on? Tap it. Want it off? Tap it again. Need to pop open the fuel filler or charge port door? It’s right there, just give it a tap. Easy!

Is this skeuomorphism taken to an absurd extreme, or does it actually make some kind of intuitive sense? Touch a tire to see how much pressure it’s reading. Hold your finger on the hood to see or hear a status report on the engine, and when your next service is due. There’s no layer of abstraction here, beyond scale–just interact with the literal part of the car you want to do something with.

Now, sure, this could be done virtually, on a touch screen with a 3D virtual model of a car. And yeah, that might work, but consider this: I want a little, physical model. Why? Well, because it’d always be there, never lost into some byzantine hierarchy of menus for one, and, even better, you can interact with that car by feel if you need to.

You can still have a screen for infotainment stuff and HVAC and other things that don’t make sense on a little car model, but for a lot of things, why not make them work via the easily-understandable interface of a little physical car? I’d love to hear what you think, because, again, I just don’t know anymore. Maybe we need to build a prototype and try it? Are there functions this interface could lend itself to that I’m missing? Fine-tune adjustments when parking? Suspension leveling? I’m open to any suggestions!

It has to be better than opening a glovebox from a touchscreen, that’s for damn sure.

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Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
11 months ago

The biggest problem is that I would like to pat my cute little car friend on the head and end up getting ejected out of the roof in the process.

ScottyB
ScottyB
11 months ago

I don’t see why not, the concept worked well enough for United Planets Cruiser C-57D as well as the Jupiter II.

https://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/images/astrodeck/navsphere.jpg

https://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/images/astrodeck/navsphere12.jpg

Torque
Torque
11 months ago

I like the idea, time to start testing!

Also Tesla kinda did this, with their keys any way.

I remember the model s when it 1st came out had a “model s model car” shaped figure as the key. You would press different parts of the ‘toy car’ key to do different things to your model s…
Open the trunk, fronk, windows, lock/unlock
I remember thinking it was a unique way to bring some fun into the owners interaction with the car.

Ron888
Ron888
11 months ago

It’s definitely an interesting idea.Could it be made to work?I’d say yes,if you dont have many controls or buttons.

Including sub menus might be a nightmare.Worse even than touch screens

Kenneth Penney
Kenneth Penney
11 months ago

Gordon-Keeble badge on the steering wheel. Nice.

Thevenin
Thevenin
11 months ago

Convince Hot Wheels to manufacture the model car interfaces, and I’m on board.

Adam Rice
Adam Rice
11 months ago

I think that adding a tactile interface—perhaps with spots on the vehicular homonculus that raise up or get warm or something like that—would be ideal for blind drivers, of which I seem to see many on the road.

Goslowmo
Goslowmo
11 months ago
Reply to  Adam Rice

Never thought I’d see the day when “vehicular homonculus” would be incorporated into a coherent sentence. Here’s your smiley face.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
11 months ago

Brilliant! We need more whimsy in our cars, and always more physical things to fondle!

As long as it has real buttons, not “buttons” like those on my phone. I have this amazing unability to touch buttons and actually have them work. Sometimes I have to “touch” my phone multiple times to get the button to recognize my finger/ Of course the intensity and force escalates during this process.

However:
It would be hillarious to see what would happen when any of our dogs got hold of it. Shades of Herbie Goes Bananas!

Blake Walsh
Blake Walsh
11 months ago

this post violates betteridge’s law of headlines

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
11 months ago

So it’s basically a touch screen in the shape of a car?

Please forgive me Jason. 😀

VanGuy
VanGuy
11 months ago

While I agree a bit of physical controls standardization and proliferation would be nice to make cars more homogeneous to drive, this ain’t it.

There is only one feature this provides that would be “new”, and that is the reproduction of which lights are on/working. Perhaps that would be nice in newer vehicles with DRLs to remind people their taillights aren’t on at night. Plus, as a “burnt out bulb indicator”.

Using it to open a trunk or hood would likely be fine, too.

But the other features would require too much precision–the windows, in particular, feel like they’d be far more finicky to handle that way. I know not all power window cars have auto up and auto down, but aside from that, aren’t most of their controls similar at this point?
Same with headlights.

Locking/unlocking the doors with that design also feels like a major red flag. If I’m in an uneasy situation, I want to be extremely careful about which doors are unlocked (and which windows are down, for that matter). I think the usual (driver door, toward the front) placement of the door locks is solid for being a very deliberate motion to make. Having those other features nearby is a bit risky, I think.

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
11 months ago

Very bad idea.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
11 months ago

This is what I always wanted those “car status monitors” on late 80’s/early 90’s cars to do. You know the ones with the little diagram of the car? They looked cool at first until you realized they just illuminated a dumb little LED when something was wrong.

Harris K Telemacher
Harris K Telemacher
11 months ago

*doesn’t read article; just reads headline*

Yes, that’s a stupid idea.

*reads article*

Definitely a stupid idea. This idea makes opening the glove box through multiple touchscreen submenus look absolutely brilliant in comparison. This idea is so bad that I fully expect Elon to incorporate it into the next Tesla right next to the steering yoke.

Sorry, but the only redeeming quality of this entire idea is just the fact that you’d have a little toy model of your car sitting on your dash, which would probably be broken off and stolen for the novelty factor, like when people steal Mercedes hood ornaments.

Elhigh
Elhigh
11 months ago

This is like going to opposite extremes in the world of car controls. From virtually contextless touchscreens where you might even have to go through a layer or two of pulldown menus to find the control you want, to a little icon – a literal icon – that you poke and prod to make things happen on the car.

So what is it, then? How do we call it? The Ford Fetish? Apropos, considering they also offer the Voodoo engine. The Chevy Icon? Danger, Will Robinson – there’s a company already doing bangup business under that name.

You could call it the Homunculus. “Tickle it right here,” you tell your squeamish passengers, “and watch what happens.”

Maybe you outsource the programming and design to some other company. New in car controls, the Apple i-doll!

I could go on and on.

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
11 months ago

I like the novelty toy aspect. Not sure it’s really all that practical, maybe even worse than a touch screen, but I like the idea of a little squeezy stress-ball sort of model of my car on the dash giving me some feedback on things like lights that might be burned out or tires getting soft.

Maybe articulate it a bit so that if there’s a problem the model rotates so that the issue is facing the driver. Right rear tire gets low so the model spins around to show off the back end and lights up the tire. Headlight goes out and the thing turns and stares at you until you fix it.

Now that I think about it, that feels a bit like The Restaurant at the End of the Universe where the cow introduces herself and recommends the best cut of meat for your dinner.

Elhigh
Elhigh
11 months ago
Reply to  Balloondoggle

“Don’t worry, sir. I’ll be very humane.”

Mr. Frick
Mr. Frick
11 months ago

I get this kinda “touch the doll” creepy vibe.

NewBalanceExtraWide
NewBalanceExtraWide
11 months ago

I would love to have a little homunculus of my car on the dashboard.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
11 months ago

So long as it’s not a cortical homunculus of my car. That would be creepy.

LuzifersLicht
LuzifersLicht
11 months ago

Cute idea but idk if it’d be any less distracting than a touchscreen. You’d have to look at the thing to see where you’re tapping and which light are lit up, wouldn’t you? Even just to see which way it’s facing.
Honestly, it’s probably time somebody figures out voice commands properly. I just want the “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot” experience. Also, if you happen to be the one to figure it out – the car doing the thing is enough of a confirmation. I don’t need the car to go “bing-bong” or “bleep-bloop” to signal it understood what I want.

TheCrank
TheCrank
11 months ago

What happens when I fat finger the window control and accidentally open the door, on the passenger side, where my mother in law is sitting, while driving, on the highway? Just asking, for a friend.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
11 months ago
Reply to  TheCrank

If she “falls out”, you get to be on Dateline…..

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