How gaming is informing the design of vehicle dashboards

How gaming is informing the design of car dashboards

Detroit — The 2023 Cadillac LYRIQ, an electric vehicle, comes with what General Motors calls its new "cockpit experience." It feels a bit like a video game because it was designed by gamers.

"Historically, the exterior was really what made or broke a vehicle," Mike Hichme, a design expert for GM, told CBS News. "But now, it's the combination of the exterior and the interior. The digital experience is a big part of that."

Dashboards, once filled with dials and gauges, are now being replaced by touchscreens.

"Gaming has really influenced the design of not just the digital content that you see on the screens," Hichme explained. "A lot of the controls, like the steering wheel controls, are inspired by a video game controller."

The upcoming Cadillac Celestiq, an EV, won't have a traditional dashboard. Instead, it has a video wall stretching across the front cabin.

Meanwhile, the 2024 Ford Mustang's screens will be powered by the same system used to develop the popular video game Fortnite.

"It's the brain of the car," said Marti Romances, co-founder and creative director for San Francisco-based design firm Territory Studio, of the dashboard. "It's the only way that you can communicate with the driver."

Territory Studio, which has its roots in video games and big budget movies, designed the user experience for LYRIQ.

"Cars need the same things that we do for movies and games, which is telling a very complex story in a visual language, which is universal and, in a way that everyone can understand what's happening," Romances said.

Vehicle manufacturers also work to ensure that the screens are not too distracting. GM told CBS News that it tests for distraction before its cars hit the road.

"We keep it from becoming a distraction by minimizing the number of steps that a customer can use, or will use, while driving," Hichme said. "So some of the features that are available in the vehicle are disabled while driving to keep it from being a distraction. And the ones that are enabled while driving are kept to a minimum number of steps." 

Kelly Funkhouser, manager of vehicle technology for Consumer Reports, has reviewed some of the new display-heavy vehicles, with an emphasis on analyzing safety.

"We're really concerned about the drawing driver's attention away from the road and putting it onto those screens," Funkhouser said. "We want to ensure that the driver is engaged in the driving task and is aware of what is going on the road, rather than paying attention to what's going on inside the vehicle."


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