Take a close look at the cabin of the Volvo Concept Estate shown above. One of the big features on the fancy, brown shooting brake is an all-new user interface called, well, it doesn't really have a name, at least not one Volvo is revealing.

The refreshingly nameless system looks seriously impressive based on the short video that accompany's the system's press release. The jewel of the whole interface is a sizable touchscreen that manages most every in-car function save for a few vital functions like volume, hazard lights and other systems that still demand a more tactile interface.

"The basic idea is to organize controls and information in a perfectly intuitive and user- friendly way. Everything is exactly where you expect it to be, making the drive more enjoyable, efficient, and safe," Thomas Ingenlath, Volvo's Senior Vice President of Design, said in a statement.

Infotainment design is one area where Volvo has struggled mightily in the past.

The system will consist of four "tiles," covering information, navigation, media and phone functions. Above those tiles sits a notification band while climate control functions sit at the bottom of the screen. From the way the press release reads, it sounds sort of like the tiles will function in the same manner as an iPhone's apps, with users able to swipe between tiles and tap individual tiles to "open" them, as well as pinch and zoom functionality as on most phone mapping apps.

"Information, navigation and media are high up and easy to keep an eye on. The phone controls, application icons and climate controls are located low, comfortable to reach and touch. Using the screen is so logical that it will be part of your muscle memory very quickly," said Ingenlath.

It all sounds quite impressive on paper and the video we've attached below makes it seem like a promising addition to a car's cabin. How it will actually function when it gets out in the real world, though, remains to be seen. We've heard many automakers tout these sorts of touchscreen systems, only to suffer at the ratings of initial quality and satisfaction surveys (we're looking at you, MyFord Touch and Cadillac CUE). And we'd be remiss if we didn't note that infotainment design is one area where Volvo has struggled mightily in the past, resorting to awkward solutions like wireless remote controls for navigation functions and hidden multi-way controllers on steering-wheel spokes. To this point, the Swedish automaker has clearly had trouble balancing its emphasis on safety with the advent of newer in-car technologies like navigation and phone integration.

In spite of all this, we're looking forward to testing Volvo's new infotainment approach when it makes its production debut on the next-generation XC90 crossover, slated to arrive later this year. In the near term, we'll try to learn more about the system when see the new Concept Estate at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show next week. Take a look below for a short video on the system, as well as the press release from Volvo.

Show full PR text
Design and technology at the heart of Volvo Car Group's new in-car experience
Sleek Scandinavian design and intuitive technology to reinvent the car interior

Volvo Car Group will use the Geneva Motor Show to reveal its new in-car control system, which is designed around a large tablet-like touch screen that will simplify and enhance the way drivers operate their cars.

The touch screen replaces the traditional selection of buttons and controls in the centre stack with one clean and sleek control panel. It will blend established tablet functionality, such as swiping and pinching, with new solutions that are specially designed for the in-car environment. It also interacts with the digital instrument cluster in front of the driver.

"The basic idea is to organise controls and information in a perfectly intuitive and user- friendly way. Everything is exactly where you expect it to be, making the drive more enjoyable, efficient, and safe," says Thomas Ingenlath, Senior Vice President Design from Volvo Car Group.

This ground-breaking driver experience will be introduced in the next car generation, starting with the all-new Volvo XC90 later in 2014.

"The new user interface is designed to create a smooth, logical and safe interaction between the driver and the car," says Thomas Ingenlath. "This goes far beyond just putting a large tablet in the centre of the dashboard. We have created a digital environment that is fully integrated in the car."

Logical stack of four 'tiles'
The layout on the portrait screen can be described as a stack of flexible 'tiles', each displaying a key functionality. Navigation is on the top, followed by media and telephone.

A thin notification band is located above the tiles, while the digital climate controls become the 'foundation' of the pile.
"Information, navigation and media are high up and easy to keep an eye on. The phone controls, application icons and climate controls are located low, comfortable to reach and touch. Using the screen is so logical that it will be part of your muscle memory very quickly," explains Thomas Ingenlath.

The smooth user interface also includes thumb-reach controls on the steering wheel and extensive voice-control possibilities.

Digital solution
The new user interface is designed so that the tiles on the touch screen expand on interaction. When one of the tiles expands to display required information, the others are compressed, still visible and instantly accessible.

"Having all functions present all the time makes the touch screen exceptionally user- friendly. The spacious layout also promotes smooth interaction without distraction," says Thomas Ingenlath.

Crystal clear but calm
"Creating this crystal clear, yet calm, environment is a core part of our digital craftsmanship. It is fine for an ordinary tablet to fight for your full attention but a touch screen in a car is very different. Information must be clear and user-friendly, without turning up the visual volume so much that you risk losing focus on the road. This also makes it easier to make really urgent information, such as a warning, much more distinctive," concludes Thomas Ingenlath


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 19 Comments
      Dave
      • 10 Months Ago
      A touch interface in a car doesn't work well because you have to take your eyes off the road to do the simplest task. BMW and Audi have it right with the center console wheel controls, it's a much better way to interact with the driver safely.
      csrecord
      • 10 Months Ago
      I have to watch a 30 sec. commercial to watch a 49 sec. video? I have a touch screen and find it more distracting than knobs and buttons which I could find without taking my eyes off the road.
      RLC
      • 10 Months Ago
      In Los Angeles where I live, it's illegal to operate a smart phone or tablet while driving. This system, and others like it, are simply iPads that are imbedded in the dash. These systems can not be used without the driver taking his or her eyes off the road. It's inherently bad design. Flashy, but unsuited to driving.
      AGSHOP
      • 10 Months Ago
      thank god. The current volvo buttons with 100 all smooshed into the centre of the dash is soooo horrible.
      RetrogradE
      • 10 Months Ago
      I stopped reading at "accompany's." (PS, Brandon, it's "accompanies." The one you used is not a word.) But I like this new Volvo and the dash layout. Well done.
      Doug Danzeisen Sr
      • 10 Months Ago
      i freely admit to being over 50, but there are a lot of us and we like easy to use, common sense, tactile operable buttons, levers and knobs for functions used while driving. Things like turning up the heat, quieting the radio and changing stations should not require a twiddle, a look, a zoom and a pinch to accomplish what should be done with a twist, a push or a slider. Looks cool, but horrible in use imho. Give us knobs or give us dials, but I don't want to drive an Ipad.
        rboote
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Doug Danzeisen Sr
        I'm under 50 and an avowed techie nerd, but I completely agree with you, Doug -- It's a safety issue. I shouldn't have to keep looking away from the road to adjust temperature, volume, etc.
      graphikzking
      • 10 Months Ago
      Am I shallow that I don't want to purchase a Volvo because they are now (partially) owned by a Chinese company thus the Government.
      Arizonarelax
      • 10 Months Ago
      Dude, Brandon, we all make spelling mistakes. But I believe you have an option to edit? "short video..."accompany's" The new dash looks well thought out. Volvo, making a statement. Nice!
      Robbie
      • 10 Months Ago
      Finally someone gets a dashboard screen right. Volvo is awesome
      Merc1
      • 10 Months Ago
      WOW, Volvo is really stepping up. That looks great. M
      PiCASSO
      • 10 Months Ago
      When in production, they will use a dated SOC that will make CUE system in the Cadillac look like a Samsung Galaxy S5.
      NG22
      • 10 Months Ago
      I think I am officially in love with Volvo. That cabin is awesome, and they're putting it into production. They're not pulling any punches with the new XC90. It's so rare a brand is so transparent about everything it needs to do when replacing a model. Especially one that's been around forever. They know the XC90 needs a ground-up rethink, and that's what they're doing. I'm starting to think this will be a legendary family car. I'm pretty sure I want an XC90, although I don't need all the space. I like the German luxury SUVs as much as the next guy, but they're so fungible, and trendy, and brand-obsessed. The cool thing about getting something like the XC90 is that it's above trendiness. It looks great, but sort of in the way the Touareg is cool. It's a nice car, but it won't announce itself. And I beg Volvo to bring to market their production versions of these three concepts. All of them are beautiful and worthy of production. Of course they should concentrate on reforming their core lineup first, but when they're done, I want some two door sexiness. While I love the brown shooting brake, the second concept--the CUV Coupe--is the one I most want. It has much of the shooting brake's proportions, but more ground clearance. And since it snows in New York every damn week, I could really use it. Perhaps it could be the next-gen XC60 Coupe. It could cost $40K and compete with the Evoque and upcoming GLK Coupe Mercedes is developing.
        ravenosa
        • 10 Months Ago
        @NG22
        "Above trendiness"? I just don't see how one buys a Volvo when Toyota/Honda/Mazda and other car makers offer more fun to drive, better looking cars for the money. Volvo doesn't make any cars that even compete with the German brands...
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