Some more thoughts about our Tesla Interface Concept.

First I’d like to say that we’re overwhelmed how much attention was attracted by our interface concept for Tesla. Just the sheer amount of feedback we got is impressive and proofs the point that the conversation about car infotainment interfaces is long overdue.

This was actually one of our main goals when we started this design exercise: We wanted to get a conversation going about UI/UX design for car infotainment systems. We never dared to think that we’ll create the worlds best car interface within a few weeks. It takes months (even years) of full-time work, real life testing and close collaboration with engineers and industrial designers to achieve a great interface ready for the mass market.

Beside all the positive feedback we got, there was also some criticism of our approach. While some of the negative feedback is absolutely justified other critic just seems to be a misunderstanding. So I’d like to explaining our thoughts behind some of the decisions we made based on the most common reactions.

Critic: A giant touchscreen is not the right solution for car interfaces, you need haptic buttons, head-up displays and voice control.

That might very well be true and as I wrote in my original Medium post “… getting rid of all tactile buttons and focusing solely on a touchscreen isn’t necessarily the best way to go for a car interface”. But we wanted to base our concept on an existing car-interior and optimize the UI/UX instead of creating a new physical environment. Our concept can easily be combined with additional technologies like head-up-displays or voice control, without changing the interface of the main touchscreen. You should also keep in mind that more and more functions like lights, wipers or climate are automatically controlled by sensors and don’t necessarily require a physical interface any longer. For example I can’t remember the last time I touched the light-switch in my car. This automation of technical processes will continue and might eventually even lead to self driving cars. The good news is, that even the Tesla Model S still has a physical button for adjusting the volume. ;)

Critic: Many buttons and fonts are too small to read while driving.

That is a valid point, all tough it’s not as bad as it might look. The Tesla touchscreen is actually pretty huge and not comparable to any other car touchscreen most people know. But I agree that some elements should probably be bigger to allow for a more precise interaction while driving. Finding the perfect size for touch-areas and fonts would require intensive real life testing with people from different age groups though. Fortunately increasing the size of many elements wouldn’t require a dramatic redesign and isn’t effecting the overall idea behind our concept.

Critic: The interface is overwhelming and communicating too much information at once.

I think this is still the biggest misunderstanding of our concept and maybe we didn’t communicate it well enough. We’re aware that there is a lot of information to handle, but in fact modern “connected” cars have an increasing amount of information and functions to deal with. And it’s too easy to say that nobody needs all those features. The smartphone and tablet generation (including myself) is asking for those features even in their cars. The video of our animated interface might have been confusing because it’s showing many features and transitions squeezed into one minute of action. The truth is though that non of those animations and transitions would happen frequently. The idea is not to constantly move widgets around and change their size. Instead you calibrate your personal homescreen once and can expand certain functions whenever you need them. This could also happen automatically based on the current situation. For example the Navigation widget expands to it’s full size whenever it needs your full attention and the phone widget takes over the screen when a call is coming in.

With the increasing amount of information and complexity of our cars, allowing the driver to customize the screen to his preferences still seems like a very valuable approach to us. And even though we didn’t design the perfect car interface (yet) we’re happy that so many people (including members from the car industry) took notice and the discussion about future infotainment systems got a boost.

View the full case study at Behance.

Martin Oberhäuser
Founder Bureau Oberhaeuser