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In-car user interface systems run the gamut in terms of usability. BMW's iDrive (which we've found to be alternately wonderful and maddening) and Audi's slicker, easier-to-use MMI are two of the most well-known. Devising an interface that makes it easy to control multiple systems is no easy task, but Ford thinks it's found a sweet spot with the HMI (Human Machine Interface) that's included in some versions of the all-new Mondeo.

Dr. Stefan BeckerThe system is used to control the car's phone, cruise control, audio, and tire pressure monitoring systems. It's operated via a set of buttons on the steering wheel that emulates the primary input device used on mobile phones: buttons at each of the four compass points, and an "OK' button in the middle of them. The reasoning, according Dr. Stevan Becker (right), who supervised the HMI project, is that around 95% of people use a mobile phone already and are familiar with that kind of control setup. The HMI's GUI is displayed on both the 5" info screen in the center stack as well as in the instrument cluster itself.

Time will tell how well it works, but we like that it's limited to the systems listed. It's when automakers try to have these interfaces control too many things that they get into trouble. We'll fiddle with our HVAC settings manually, thanks. Save the menus for the other stuff.

We'd love to hear opinions from international readers who actually get to try this out. Now, on a completely unrelated note, why doesn't every Ford interior look as good as the one above?

Press release after the jump.

[Source: Ford]

PRESS RELEASE:
FORD BORROWS MOBILE PHONE LOGIC TO MAKE HI-TECH NEW MONDEO USER FRIENDLY

Ford's new Mondeo comes packed with advanced features which are as easy to use as a mobile phone.

Ford psychology experts tapped into the intuitive logic pioneered by mobiles when deciding how all the new Mondeo's hi-tech gadgets should be controlled.

This led to the development of the Ford Human Machine Interface (HMI), which helps drivers of new Mondeo to find their way round the car's phone, cruise control and audio systems without major distraction.

The secret lies in the simplicity of steering wheel-mounted buttons which navigate Ford HMI's menu choices. Each selection is confirmed by pressing the centre 'OK' button.

Phone handsets with four control buttons pointing up, down, left and right around an 'OK' button are recognised the world over. Around 95 per cent of people use a mobile phone and are familiar with the menu-based system supporting its operation. Ford supervisor Dr Stefan Becker explained more about Ford HMI – a first in the large car segment:

"Ford HMI is about a consistent approach to activating systems such as phone, cruise control and audio in new Mondeo. In simple terms, if you were to get into the new Mondeo having never driven the car, you can answer a Bluetooth-connected phone, set the speed or change the music without resorting to the vehicle handbook."

Stefan highlights simple everyday tasks such as using a car door handle as actions that are intuitive: "We do not have to think about how to use a door handle. Ford HMI offers the same intuitive pathway through new Mondeo's many technologies so drivers do not have to learn new systems."

Minimal driver distraction

In addition to Ford HMI menus appearing on a five-inch screen located in the centre console, all information is replicated on the main instrument display. This allows key information to be visible in the driver's direct line of sight between the dials. The display ranges from a standard monochrome screen using red illumination to the highest specification colour display.

Passenger comfort

The front passenger is able to access different systems and to regulate personal settings in the centre console. This dual control element also allows a passenger to assist the driver for the safest and quickest methods of operation.

DR STEFAN BECKER, SUPERVISOR OF HMI DEVELOPMENT

First job at Ford
Technical specialist in 2002 – my brief was to define a HMI system to fit across the Ford model range

Favourite Ford project
New Mondeo – not just because it's a current project, but it has challenged us to examine closely how customers think in relation to cars' processes and functions

Favourite Ford vehicle
Ford Galaxy – with a wife, four children and dog, the Galaxy's perfect

HUMAN MACHINE INTERFACE IN NEW FORD MONDEO

What is it?
Push-button logic for easy control of car's phone, cruise control and audio systems. Also used for tyre pressure monitoring

How to get it
Standard feature on new Mondeo Titanium X and optional on Ghia

What's the cost?
New Mondeo Titanium X from £20,460
On new Mondeo Ghia technology pack option (HMI, keyless entry and Tyre Pressure Monitoring System) is £500

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