Smart Dashboards: Saints Or Sinners?
What Are Smart Dashboards?
Smart Dashboards might be “smart” – but are motorists smart enough to use them without being distracted from the road? A Smart Dashboard is a large, computer-style, screen typically mounted behind the steering wheel. It therefore replaces the mechanical speedometer, odometer and fuel gauge, etc. But a Smart Dashboard is capable of more. Let us consider an example. Audi – courtesy of the Consumer Electronics Show - has revealed a mock-up of a concept that will launch in the near future. Operation comes via a circular dial behind the gear stick that is flanked by a handful of buttons such as “back”. The system can also interpret multi-touch gestures such as zoom and scroll (like a smartphone). This combination of controls enables the motorist to select his/her preference of music by artist, album and genre. Alternatively, the interface controls the integrated satellite navigation system, telephone, sound settings and radio - all via a few buttons and a twelve-inch screen behind the steering wheel. The motorist can also choose whether the screen presents a more traditional image of a large speedometer, or focus more heavily on the satellite navigation. Other companies have – or soon will have - similar systems so Smart Dashboards are the future.
Motorists Concerned That Smart Dashboards Might be Distracting
Smart Dashboards have critics that claim they can distract motorists. Manufacturers, however, minimise potential risk by ensuring their user interfaces are intuitive and straightforward. But it is ultimately motorists' responsibility to look through the windscreen rather than stare at the dashboard or fiddle with buttons. That has always been the case, even when cars were basic by modern standards. Decades ago, for example, it might have been claimed that having cassette players in vehicles was dangerous. Motorists might have been tempted to fast-forward to the next tracks rather than focusing on traffic, after all. Perhaps some did. But the overwhelming majority were sensible enough only to operate the cassette players at safe moments such as while waiting at red lights. Moving forward in time, millions of people throughout the world have satellite navigation mounted to their windscreens. These systems speak, have moving images of maps and require motorists to control them via touch or voice commands. These could, therefore, be considered distracting. But once again, most people are sensible enough to operate them at appropriate moments. Smart Dashboards are simply the next step of development and only as distracting as people permit.