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?
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:
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.