A large tablet-like touch screen is set to replace buttons in Swedish vehicle manufacturer Volvo’s newly updated sports utility vehicle (SUV), the XC90.
The XC90 will be revealed later this year, with Volvo stating that the vehicle will change the way drivers operate their cars by dispensing with the normal array of buttons and replacing them with a touch screen, a head-up display and thumb controls on the steering wheel.
The result is a modern in-car control system, which is significantly easier to use than previous models, ensuring that drivers will be able to keep their eyes on the road as much as possible while operating or making adjustments to the system.
The new digital system also makes efficient use of the car’s interior space, offering a range of additional benefits, such as integrated cloud-based applications for music streaming and other services, which include the world’s first integrated Park and Pay application, and the ability to mirror and use Apple iOS devices in the touch screen display.
Volvo Car Group electronics and e-propulsion engineering VP Dr Thomas Müller states that the way in which the driver interacts with a car’s system is becoming progressively more important, as cars become connected to the Internet, a far wider range of functions and entertainment services are offered.
“It is essential that these services are offered in a way that does not reduce safety levels and in a manner that is easy to understand for the driving task,” he says.
The typical driver control system available in many other premium cars on the market can involve 30 or more buttons that are spread across a dashboard, making it challenging for drivers to locate and operate, and thus causing distractions.
Volvo’s new interface, part of its sound and navigation system called Sensus, incorporates the latest touch screen hardware and software, allowing drivers to build an instinctive understanding of how the system works, where the controls are located and how to operate them.
Volvo Car Group senior design VP Thomas Ingenlath says smooth interaction without distraction has been the guiding expression for Volvo designers and engineers. “The in-car control system is designed to keep eyes on the road and hands on the wheel as much as possible,” he says.
The touch screen replaces the traditional selection of buttons and controls in the centre stack with one sleek control panel. This central panel interacts with an adaptive digital instrument cluster in front of the driver, while vital information is projected on the head-up display on the lower part of the windscreen. The user interface also includes thumb-reach controls on the steering wheel and voice control.
Volvo Car Group senior research and development VP Dr Peter Mertens explains that using the screen is so logical that it will quic-kly become part of the drivers muscle memory. “Information, navigation and media are high up and easy to check. The phone controls, application icons and climate controls are located low and are comfortable to reach and touch. All of this logic is based on extensive usability and user experience research and the latest technology,” he states.
The layout on the portrait-orientated screen can be described as a stack of flexible ‘tiles’, each displaying a key function.
Navigation is on top, followed by media and telephone. A thin notification band is located above the tiles, while the digital climate controls form the ‘foundation’ of the menu.
When one of the tiles on the touch screen expands on interaction, the others are compressed, but remain visible and instantly accessible. This enhances the user-friendliness of the touch screen, with no need to go through a main menu when switching between functions.
“The adaptive digital instrument cluster and the head-up display ensure that the most relevant information is always available where the driver needs it,” says Ingenlath.
The connected experience of the updated XC90 comes through the Swedish multinational communications technology and services provider Ericsson-based cloud solution and the navigation system, which provides the possibility to remotely update content.
Sensus includes a broad selection of cloud-based applications. The selection of cloud-based services, which may vary depending on the market, includes Internet radio, connected navigation, finding and paying for parking, discovering new restaurants at a destination and streaming of music.
“The new Volvo XC90 will not only tell you when it is time to visit the garage but also suggest an appointment for you at a Volvo dealership. The Connected Service Booking application is the first step in making the dealer workshop fully integrated into the connected ecosystem,” says Dr Müller.
The new XC90 is the first Volvo to offer con- sumer electronics company Apple CarPlay, which brings selected features and services familiar to iPad, iPhone and iPod users dir- ectly into the car through the centre console touch screen display.
Users will immediat- ely recognise the familiar icons for their basic Apple applications, such as phone, messages, music and navigation.