The state of UI design in most vehicles today is widely criticized for being unintuitive, outdated, and aesthetically unappealing. Car manufacturers have been slow to implement the quality of design that other industries assume as standard. As a result, many designers have taken on this opportunity to speculate how the future of vehicle UIs will change our driving experiences.

There are more developments in the automotive industry seemingly every day. So much so in fact that the car industry predicts more change in the next two decades than it saw in the previous century. Therefore, cutting edge digital designers should focus their attentions towards this critical industry. So, what will be the future of vehicle UIs? Can they fundamentally change our relationships to our cars?

The following is a curated collection of beautiful and futuristic Vehicle HUDs (Head Up Displays), Interactive UIs, and third party app controllers created by different designers from around the world. Some of the designs are captured from live products, and some are still in development.

Tesla Mobile Control Centre Prototype

Why it’s amazing:

Have you ever felt the paranoia in wondering whether or not you’ve locked your car doors, switched off the lights, or handed over your keys to your teen who has just learned to drive.

This mobile app prototype lets you check all of this without having to budge from your seat. Have a diesel hybrid? You can even start up the engine while you eat breakfast to get the frost off. As for sensory feedback, the intuitive animations and transitions let you know when an action is executed and completed.

Onboard Touch Control UI

Why it’s amazing:

This UI looks at a universal control model driven by muscle memory using touch gestures. The number of fingers on a surface and their movements trigger actions, as made standard by Apple’s iPad, magic mouse, and other operating systems. In this case, movements increase or decrease values.

The UI removes the need to memorize all of the little controls and extensive iconography library, thus allowing you to use the same gesture, or its variants, to accomplish multiple tasks within different categories.

You can view the entire case study and get to try out the prototype here.

Tesla Dashboard Interface Concept

Why it’s amazing:

Vehicles will become smarter as utilities share more of the same spaces, and functions become increasingly interconnected. With these developments, the data put out in front of us may become overwhelming, as it did for our phones and anything else that was ever meant to be a single function device. It should only be natural that we have some control over what we see and how we see it. AI and machine learning will take control of intuition, and this Bureau Oberhaeuser prototype does an excellent job of bringing it all to light.

You can view the case study and see it in action here.

Remote Vehicle Health Test and Control.

Credit: Ramotion

Why it’s amazing:

It’s only getting harder to pick up a wrench and clank away under the hood when things seem to be going awry with your vehicle. With all of the systems becoming electronic, computerized, and covered to look pristine, pre-empting where the faults are isn’t so intuitive. This mobile prototype interprets the health data of your vehicle in a language you understand to let you make the necessary repairs before embarking on your coast-to-coast road trip.

Tire Pressure and Climate UI

Credit: Ryan Duffy

Why it’s amazing:

When conducting on-the-go tire pressure checks this interface will let you know individual pressure ranges and exactly how much to top up by. This interface provides such fundamental feedback that it should come stock standard.

Hudway Augmented Reality Heads Up Display

Credit: Hudway app

Why it’s amazing:

It goes without saying that drivers should keep their heads up on the road, but inbuilt mobile navigation interfaces still lead to occasional accidents when drivers look to their phones for directions. The Hudway app makes it easy to power the second screen experience into your windshield. Glass is the surface of the future, and this navigation app takes advantage of that real estate to give the driver an extension of his mobile, along with turn-by-turn voice prompts.

You can view a case study and get to see it in action here

City Guide Car Play Application

Credit: Cleveroad

Why it’s amazing:

This UI is perfect for the intrepid adventurer. If you want to discover what’s around you quickly, this app lets you bring out the spontaneity of travel within a confined route (and hopefully keeps you on the right side of the road too).

Apple Carplay

Credit: Apple

Why it’s amazing:

Everyone saw this one coming. It’s a no-brainer if you already have all things Apple, you might as well just inject your car with their products too. Apple Carplay is the next level of second screen interactions, and it will only get better from here on.

Digital Dashboard Cluster Display

Why it’s amazing:

There’s nothing like revving up the engine and having all your instruments light up and play in unison like a finely tuned marching band. You get sensory feedback from everything around you through sound and delayed visual interactions, as well as micro animations that provide intuitive signals for when your next turn is approaching, and your fuel is low, or tire pressure is looking off.

However, there is a certain weariness that comes from replacing every analog function with a digital display. Often there are no manual overrides, so if a fuse pops, or the electronics fail, your drive will quickly become a straight shot home.

Tesla Apple Watch UI Prototype

Why it’s amazing:

As wearables become an integrated part of our connected devices, it’s a no-brainer that your handheld may be alleviated from its duty to control the most astute parts of your related product ecosystems. This prototype explains well how this can translate to the wrist. Check out the prototype in depth here.

Conclusion

This is how we see the current state of cutting edge vehicle UX design today. What other products are pushing the boundaries that you know of? What do you think about this set of designs? Join the discussion and let us know your opinion below!

About the author

Muwuso Mkochi, South Africa
member since January 25, 2016
Muwuso is a senior interactive art director and multidisciplinary designer with key focuses in digital, brand, and experience design. Over the past 9 years, he’s led UI and integrated experience design in-house and remotely for some of the world's biggest--and smallest--brands and agencies. He is constantly inspired by the evolution of technology, its influence on human behavior, and the resulting impact on environments and micro-cultures. [click to continue...]
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Comments

Robert
They need to come up with a better UI for dash displays that require you to use your hands to control. I can start typing on my keyboard without looking at it, thanks to tiny bumps on the F and J keys. Nowhere is it more important to be able to use a device eyes-free than while driving, and the City Guide Car Play and Apply Car Play don't allow for that. If I have to take my eyes off the road to locate and press a button, that's inherently dangerous, and a regression from current systems. Hell, even holding my phone up above my steering wheel is safer than that.
Tamás Kincses
I think most of these UIs will be feasible on autonomous cars where drivers will have enough time to find and tap a button. Besides on bumpy roads drivers still need seats with some gimbal stabilization or way better suspension for conpensate low road conditions.
Neale
Sorry... I had to laugh at the first one. The idea of "Start Engine" on a Tesla. They don't have one!
BamBam22
The likes of Apple CarPlay can be controlled using the car's native (physical) controls in some models, which makes it a lot less distracting to operate, and certainly safer than 'holding your phone above your steering wheel'. I still think physical buttons make a lot more sense in our cars of *today* because they can be 'felt' and their location 'learnt' without the driver taking their eyes off the road for any more than 1 second. With all of this in mind, I think that manufacturers really need to be talking to each other a LOT more so that people don't have to re-learn an entire interface from car to car. This has always been an issue and you often see people on the road who clearly have no clue what some of their cars' controls do.
BamBam22
*Some* of these things are amazing. But not all of them. Until all cars on the road are fully autonomous, touch screens and gestures that need to be learnt don't make good UX in a car. My current car has a touch screen but primarily I prefer to use the steering wheel controls because it allows for more precision and far less distraction from the road. Even with Apple CarPlay, I prefer to navigate around it using the physical navigation nob on the car's infotainment console. The distance between me and the touch screen means it's difficult to hit exactly what I want whilst driving along. The companion apps are great, but they're great because the user is able to focus on them much more. I think there's a really exciting future ahead and it's incredible seeing the leaps that have been made just in the past 3 years, especially when you see Audi's digital cockpit and new things from Tesla, Peugeot and Jaguar/Land Rover. But they are far from perfect.
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About the author
Muwuso Mkochi
Designer
Muwuso is a senior interactive art director and multidisciplinary designer with key focuses in digital, brand, and experience design. Over the past 9 years, he’s led UI and integrated experience design in-house and remotely for some of the world's biggest--and smallest--brands and agencies. He is constantly inspired by the evolution of technology, its influence on human behavior, and the resulting impact on environments and micro-cultures.