News & Views

5 Minute Read: Delivering Growth & Valued CX Thru In-Vehicle HMI (pt. 2)

Modern drivers are first and foremost digital consumers. They’re used to seamless touchscreens, high-fidelity gaming, responsive voice assistants, and plenty of options for personalization in their everyday tech.

Those expectations don’t disappear when they open the car door. Drivers have little patience for clunky interfaces, lag times, and inconsistent visual cues in their in-vehicle HMI.1  After all, shouldn’t a $40,000 vehicle provide better experiences than a $400 smartphone? To keep up, automakers need to deliver engaging, updatable, and customizable UX. But with the current patchwork of mobility software solutions and fierce intra-industry competition for high-tech talent, how can OEMs design and deploy a seamless in-vehicle experience that lives up to the hype?  

Personalized, Seamless Experiences

As with all modern tech advances, what once seemed aspirational for HMI is fast becoming baseline. Bluetooth has been ubiquitous for years. We’re already seeing embedded IoT, head-up displays, and voice and virtual recognition taking hold. New vehicles feature slick HD touchscreens the size of laptops, or larger – the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq promises a massive 33” curved LED screen that will cover a great part of the dashboard and house instrumentation and infotainment. Voice control is projected to become the second most-prevalent interface by 2022, when it’s expected to be included in 80% of vehicle HMIs.2 Embedded AR and VR are on track to follow quickly, becoming commonplace as early as 2025.3

With the current patchwork of mobility software solutions and fierce intra-industry competition for high-tech talent, how can OEMs design and deploy a seamless in-vehicle experience that lives up to the hype?

When it comes to infotainment, the rise of autonomous vehicles will open the floodgates. With fewer in-vehicle responsibilities, drivers will want to feel more connected to the world outside of their car.2 Advanced HMI will increasingly provide passengers a smooth, holistic experience comparable to in-home entertainment. Picture Netflix moving seamlessly from on-couch to in-vehicle screens; Spotify recognizing distinct voices and responding with curated playlists; and highly configurable touchscreens with 3-D displays. Integrating external tech such as an Alexa/Google home hub or a work calendar into a vehicle’s HMI can also help drive stronger brand connection.2

Creating strong HMI-driven connections can form a stickier relationship between automotive brands and digitally savvy drivers and passengers. But this shift represents a sea change for OEMs, who now find themselves owning the customer experience in ways they never imagined—including consumers’ expectations of having the latest and greatest tech at their fingertips with minimum hassle.

Fast and Friction-Free Upgrades

Consumers are accustomed to phones, tablets, and laptops that receive updates and upgrades with minimal friction. The same needs to happen in-vehicle to ensure HMI features remain cutting-edge throughout the ownership experience. Tesla is the obvious market leader, having rolled out its first over-the-air (OTA) updates in 2012, but other players are making tremendous strides. In 2020, Ford began equipping most redesigned vehicles in the U.S.—including ICE and EV models—with OTA technology that can deliver updates in under two minutes, enabling drivers to enjoy entirely new features that didn’t exist when they took delivery. BMW’s OTA rollout is continuing through 2020, and includes HMI enhancements to its Intelligent Personal Assistant and integration of third-party apps for streaming services. GM promises to follow suit with OTA updates available in 2023 for most vehicles within their lineup.

The ability to capture and incorporate user feedback into ongoing in-vehicle updates opens new avenues for manufacturers, OEMs, and Tier One suppliers to differentiate their experiences and drive a closer connection with customers. Tesla’s “Dog Mode” exemplifies the promise and the peril of this brave new world. The Dog Mode feature keeps the A/C running while the Tesla is off, and displays a message on the large touchscreen to let any concerned onlookers know that the dog is being kept safe and comfortable while their owner runs an errand. When a panicked dog dad tweeted Tesla about a glitch in the system that had caused his car interior to overheat, Elon Musk replied within minutes, and a fix was pushed out to Tesla owners via OTA the next day. It’s an example that shows what is possible – and also illustrates the intense pressure automakers are under to meet modern consumers’ demands for fast, seamless experiences.

The HMI Challenge

In our work with the world’s leading mobility and technology companies, we’ve identified key opportunities for auto manufacturers and OEMs to create competitive advantage in their HMI strategy. 

  • Deliver on exceptional design. Ready or not, OEMs are now on the hook for delivering cutting-edge in-vehicle digital experiences. Instead of competing with Silicon Valley for developers and designers, many mobility firms are choosing to collaborate with tech shops that already have HMI design, motion graphics, and software capabilities in place.
  • Shorten the time to market. Collaboration can provide OEMs instant access to automotive UX designers, real-time 3D engine development, and emerging technologies.
  • Protect against disruption. The mobility market is changing rapidly, and OEMs need to pivot along with it. It’s becoming increasingly important to implement HMI design strategies and software solutions that can adapt to changing interior design preferences and new powertrain variations.

It is a challenging and exciting time to be designing HMI for discerning drivers. No matter where you are on your journey, Vectorform can help.

Actions to Consider:

Vehicles are rapidly transforming into software-defined platforms. Are you ready? Ask yourself: 

  • Am I ready to pivot in line with future trends?
  • Do I have the capabilities to deliver exceptional CX?
  • What opportunities are available through collaboration?

The transformation isn’t slowing down. Vectorform is exploring solutions that reduce time-to-market of scalable in-vehicle HMI solutions to support ambitious growth strategies.

Connect with us if you’d like to learn more about how Vectorform is helping clients with HMI and how we can work with you to close the innovation-execution gap that stands between you and your goals.   


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