If you haven’t gotten a new car in a while you may not have noticed that the future of the dashboard looks like this:
That’s it. A single screen replacing all the dashboard gauges, knobs and switches. But behind that screen is an increasing level of automation that hides a ton of complexity.
At times everything you need is on the screen with a glance. At other times you have to page through menus and poke at the screen while driving. And while driving at 70mph, try to understand if you or your automated driving system is in control of your car. All while figuring out how to use any of the new features, menus or rearranged user interface that might have been updated overnight.
In the beginning of any technology revolution the technology gets ahead of the institutions designed to measure and regulate safety and standards. Both the vehicle’s designers and regulators will eventually catch up, but in the meantime we’re on the steep part of a learning curve — part of a million-person beta test — about what’s the right driver-to-vehicle interface.
We went through this with airplanes. And we’re reliving that transition in cars. Things will break, but in a few decades we’ll come out out the other side, look back and wonder how people ever drove any other way.
Here’s how we got here, what it’s going to cost us, and where we’ll end up.