Therefore, when designing automotive interfaces it is essential that the
interaction concept include additional senses and modalities to reduce
visual demands on the driver. A
prominent example is the human
haptic sense. Devices for the primary driving task are designed for
eyes-free interaction; nobody needs
to look at the steering wheel while
turning or at the accelerator pedal
when increasing speed. These haptic
primary driving devices have been
part of cars from the very beginning
and are almost indispensable.
During the first 100 years of the
automobile, it was common to add a
new control when introducing new
functionalities. The predominant
interaction concept was a one-to-one
mapping in which one control oper-
ates exactly one function (see Figure
1). For example, there would be a
button for turning on the headlights
or a knob for adjusting the radio
frequency. The advantages of physi-
cal controls are that drivers can find
and use them more or less eyes-free,
just by feeling, and that these con-
trols provide direct haptic feedback.
Early on, buttons for turning on the
headlights even remained in their
position when pushed so the driver
could feel whether the headlights
were on. To turn off the headlights,
the driver had to pull the button.
• Figure 1. Car controls, then and now.
Left: 1938 BMW
328. Right: 2011
BMW 6 Series.
Photographs from left by Dagmar Kern, Bastian Pfleging.
March + April 2013