Volvo New User Interface

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.


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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