Goodbye to Buttons on the new Volvo XC90
We’ve already started the bit-by-bit story of the new Volvo XC90, Volvo’s claim to be one of the most modern cars available with stories of comfort and now the designers and engineers have revealed that they have also touched the car operation with their very own style of pixie dust. Looking to get drivers to re-look at the way that they drive their cars, with the Volvo XC90, they have completely dispensed with the usual vast array of buttons and replaced them with a large tablet-like touch screen, a head-up display and thumb controls on the steering wheel.
It’s like the Jetsons wasn’t a cartoon but a science programme in the mould of Tomorrow’s World as Volvo claim to have installed “the most modern in-car control system on the market” as well as being a lot easier to use as drivers will be able to keep their eyes on the road for that split-second longer whilst operating the system or making any adjustments. After all; a typical driver control system that you would find in pretty much any another premium car available will have anything upwards of 30 buttons spread right across the dashboard, which is a challenge in itself for the driver when parked up let alone when on the road!
The system also uses the space in the car’s interior with greater efficiency as well as offering a range of additional benefits such as integrated cloud-based applications for music streaming, the world’s first integrated Park and Pay application, and the ability to mirror and use Apple iOS devices in the touch screen display.
“As cars increasingly become more connected to the Internet and are able to offer a far wider range of functions and entertainment services, the way in which the driver interacts with the car’s systems is becoming progressively more important. It is essential that these services are offered in a way that does not reduce safety levels and in a manner that is easy to understand and optimized for the driving task,” said Dr Thomas M. Müller, Vice President Electrics/Electronics & E-propulsion engineering of Volvo Car Group.
Sensus – instinctive understanding
It all revolves around the introduction to the XC90 of Volvo’s new interface, part of ‘Sensus’, that incorporates the latest touch screen hardware and software that is easy to understand, and is as near as damnit instantly understandable with regards to control position and operation.
“Smooth interaction without distraction has been the guiding expression for our designers and engineers. The in-car control system is designed to keep eyes on the road and hands on the wheel as much as possible,” said Thomas Ingenlath, Volvo Car Group’s Senior Vice President Design.
Mainly built around the touch screen that replaces all those buttons and switches that you would normally find in the centre stack with just one sleek-looking control panel, this interacts with an adaptive digital instrument cluster that is positioned just in front of the driver with the required (and usually vital) information projected on to the head-up display on the lower part of the windscreen. There are also thumb-reach controls on the steering wheel and state-of-the-art voice control.
Although it sounds a bit futuristic, and coming from a generation that thinks a smartphone is a bit clever, Volvo think that the system used in the XC90 is easy to pick up – whatever the level of your technophobia! “Using the screen is so logical that it will become part of your muscle memory very quickly,” said Dr Peter Mertens, Volvo Car Group’s Senior Vice President Research and Development. “Information, navigation and media are high up and easy to check. The phone controls, application icons and climate controls are located low and are comfortable to reach and touch. All of this logic is based on extensive usability and user experience research and the latest technology.”
Basically the image on screen is best described as “a stack of flexible tiles, each displaying a key functionality with navigation on top, followed by media and telephone.” Each tile expands on interaction without hiding the others, making multi-tiling possible with ease, and the whole thing user-friendly with no need to return to main menus when function-switching.
“The adaptive digital instrument cluster and the head-up display make sure that the most relevant information is always available where the driver needs it,” said Mr Ingenlath.
Fully connected experience
As you would expect from a car as up-to-date as Rihanna’s stylist, the new Volvo XC90 is fully connected, thanks to the Ericsson-based cloud solution, the HERE navigation system and, of course, Sensus, which includes a wide selection of cloud-based applications such as Internet radio, connected navigation, finding and paying for parking, discovering new restaurants at the destination and seamless streaming of favourite music to mention just a few.
“The XC90 will not only tell you when it’s time to visit the garage but also suggest an appointment for you at your Volvo dealership. The Connected Service Booking application is the first step in making the dealer workshop fully integrated into the connected eco-system,” said Dr Müller.
The Volvo XC90 is also the first Volvo car to offer Apple CarPlay, something that will already be familiar to drivers using iPads, iPhones and iPods.
Still more to come on the Volvo XC90 as the latest safety features and connected in-car technologies will be revealed in late July/early August, while mid-July will see the reveal of the chassis and powertrains details, prior to the exterior launch at the end of August.