The user experience (UX) for automobiles has undergone a revolutionary set of changes over the past decade. As technology expanded at a rapid pace, user experience often took a back seat to automaker’s desire to include the latest technologies. Having connectivity to Bluetooth or offering an integrated GPS was considered important, while thought for how a user might access the controls appeared to be of secondary concern.

Frustrated drivers quickly discovered that UX was critical, as they attempted to connect their phone, enter a GPS addresses, or synchronize an address book without success. Some functions that were intended to make it easier for a driver to operate hands-free instead introduced new distractions.

Ford is separating themselves from their original partner, Microsoft. At the early onset of in-car technology, they appeared to be a solid choice. But just as early versions of Windows were not known for their great user experience, the same could be said about the in-car technology. Software glitches that are annoying on a PC or laptop are completely unacceptable in an automobile. The need to work with controls while operating a vehicle has created a need for a focus on simplistic, accessible UX. Ford has found this user experience with an unusual technology partner for 2015. Ford turned to QNX, a subsidiary of Blackberry, the once high-flying maker of phones that were the must-have among connected business users long before iPhone and Android devices were available.

The new UX in cars is known as Sync3 and it provides a greatly simplified way of interfacing with electronics and connected devices. Traditional controls for things such as audio volume and temperature are returning, leaving the touch screen to control access to phone, GPS, and BlueTooth connected devices. Having worked with many embedded systems, many of the principles that are taught in the UX courses at American Graphics Institute carry through those used in automobiles.

Gary Joblonski, the director of infotainment systems at Ford indicated that they know their 2010 efforts with Microsoft were an over-reach, and the effort is now on simplification. Dieter Rams would be proud, as Swiss design philosophy makes its way to the UX of the automobile.


Ford Simplifies UX Design