Nissan doesn’t want its customers to feel like they’re in NASA’s command center when they’re behind the wheel, but it also wants to continue packing an increasing amount of technology into its models. It asked its designers to take a minimalist, functional, and polished approach to creating a new generation of car interiors.
“I think people are going to get tired of these big black screens. It’s a bit of a wall between you and the outside,” opined Alfonso Albaisa, the firm’s senior vice president for global design, in an interview with Green Car Reports.
The amount of information packed into modern, touchscreen-based infotainment systems is almost overwhelming. They display navigation, connectivity, and entertainment functions, and motorists often need to use the screen to access vehicle settings and adjust the climate control system. In many cases, the owner’s manual is programmed into the software, too, and Amazon Fire TV integration promises to bundle even more functions into our dashboards.
Many automakers have concluded adding more features requires a bigger screen. The Tesla Model 3 has what looks like a medium-sized television propped up on the dashboard, and Byton’s M-Byte will launch with a 48-inch screen that occupies the entire space between the door pillars. Albaisa’s team concluded smaller is better.
The designer explained market research shows horizontal screens are easier to read than vertical ones. Presenting information clearly and legibly is also important; that sounds obvious, but it’s a message not everyone has received. “The way that we can move information horizontally makes it very natural to read. These are big screens, and we’re changing the iconography of it, too,” he told Green Car Reports.
The Ariya concept (shown above) introduced during the 2019 Tokyo Auto Show quietly previewed this new design direction. Surprisingly realistic for a design study, the Ariya features a decluttered interior with two screens (one for the instrument cluster, the second for the infotainment system) that take up 30 inches of the dashboard. The icons are relatively big, colorful, and well spread out. It’s a layout expected to reach production with minimal changes when the Ariya arrives in showrooms by the end of 2021, and Nissan’s other models will receive it later.
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