A personalized dashboard for truckers (concept)

It’s no secret that there’s a digital transition happening within the car industry. Dashboards are becoming more digital by the day and the traditional set of gauges are being replaced by screens with their own user interface.

At Hike One we have been designing and reviewing car interfaces for quite some time. In 2014 we even set up a website all about this topic: CarUI.info. Here we analyze and review dashboards from different car manufacturers. Recently we also wrote an article for Autoweek. One of the biggest automotive magazines in The Netherlands.

The transition to digital dashboards is rapidly expanding for consumer cars. Nevertheless, the truck transport industry still lacks behind. This is quite a shame, considering that truck drivers make a lot of mileage for their jobs. A digital dashboard especially designed for them could enhance the experience of their daily job.

We decided to take the challenge and design a digital UI for trucks. This became the graduation project of intern Steven van Asselt, who recently joined our team :)

The busy life of truckers

When designing a truck interface, you need to take a lot of other things in account than designing for an ordinary passenger car. Trucks are not only being used to drive greater distances than cars. They’re also the place where drivers spent most of their time during a week.

Being a truck driver is no slouch. They usually have a busy schedule. Besides transporting their goods safely and environmentally friendly, they also have to fulfill some administrative tasks during their trip. For instance, they receive information about their transport duties from their board computer. They also have to keep the transport company up to date about the status of the delivery.

To get a better scope of the daily life of a trucker, we did some interviews with experienced truckers and their bosses. This way we figured out their wishes, needs and ‘top tasks’. This are the most performed actions during a trip.

A jungle of communication and information

During their daily activities, truck drivers have to deal with loads of different information and communication flows. These information derive from different devices in their cabin.

Devices they’re using:

  • Board computer
  • Tachograph
  • Stereo
  • Cellphones (work and private)
  • GPS — Navigation systems

Most of these devices are being used for daily work and private purposes. Among these devices, the board computer is te most important. It not only keeps track of the transport assignments, they also are used to keep the transport company up to date. Truck drivers use their phones to keep in touch with their families, or to discuss something with the fleet manager at the transport company. These communication and information flows can become quite distracting on the road. This can lead to dangerous situations.

The solution: a smart digital dashboard that brings a good overview

In our concept the Truck UI is running on top of a built-in board computer that has been integrated into the dashboard of the truck itself. The main goal of this board computer was to combine all the information and communication flows into one, clear, easy-to-use interface.

After a couple of weeks designing, iterating and testing, a high fidelity prototype was made. The design was created with Sketch and our prototypes were done using Principle. We tested our prototype on the massive 12.9 inch iPad Pro with truckers and also fleet managers.

The final name for the UI is ‘TruckSync’, because the system ‘syncs’ all information and communication of all devices within the system.

TruckSync converts all different kinds of information and communication flows into categorized notifications. During a trip, these notifications will be presented to the driver in a safe, easy-to-use manner.

Our concept dashboard is built up out of 3 different ‘segments’, with each their own function. The most used segment is the left, the instrument cluster. Here all gauges are visible as well as all incoming categorized notifications.

The middle segment is all about work oriented activities. Last but not least we have the left segment. This one is all about customizability and personality. Here you can find widgets that the driver can customize. The last two screens are touch controlled and won’t require any necessary input while driving.

A category for each notification

The TruckSync system works with different kinds of notification categories. Every category has their own quick recognizable color.

> Work (green)

These work-related notifications are received directly from the transport company. Those notifications can be direct messages, calls and also transport jobs or updates.

> Personal (blue)

Blue notifications are coming directly from the personal smartphone of the truck driver. These are displayed when the driver connects his smartphone to the built-in dock of the truck. Kind of like in Apple’s ‘CarPlay’. Only text messages and calls from favorite contacts will be displayed to reduce any spam or distraction.

> Traffic (red)

The red notifications are all about traffic. Some examples: accidents, traffic jams or construction work on the route.

Quick controls using the steering wheel

Drivers can easily react to notifications using the d-pad on the left side of the steering wheel.

Every menu has their own set of options represented by buttons on the d-pad. The screen shows what actions are available per screen.

The d-pad lights up in the color of the incoming notification, helping the driver to identify what kind of notification is incoming. Also only the actionable buttons per screen will light up.

The functions assigned to the buttons have a fixed pattern in all screens. This creates a sense of ‘muscle memory’. It also enables the driver to control the system without looking at the steering wheel after some time.

Keep the transport company up to date, automatically

It’s key for transport companies to track the ongoing deliveries by their trucks. This is why truck drivers are required to keep them up to date when something happens or when they arrive. In TruckSync drivers can easily confirm this kind of thing, using the touch screen on the middle panel. The system is context aware, which means that it knows which event is about to happen based on the location. The user only has to check the details and confirm, the rest is all being done automatically in the background.

Be in control of your notifications and dashboard setup

Most of the dashboard elements can be customized and tweaked by the driver. For example, the widgets on the right display can be changed to personal taste. The driver can also choose which kind of messages and calls will be displayed during the trip.

The personalization can be done using the companion app. When the driver inserts his smartphone into the built-in dock, it will automatically sync all the personalized settings made in the app. This feature is also really convenient for truck drivers who switch trucks regularly. The preferences are stored into the app itself. When you place the phone into another truck with the TruckSync system, it automatically will change the setup to the phone it is connected to.

Video of the concept:

The video down below explains the whole concept. It also showcases some of the animated prototypes made for this concept. Enjoy!