A picture window — the view from a picture window is so beautiful that it looks like a picture? What about the windshield? The dynamic view through the windshield can make it a breathtaking view off a narrow mountain pass or a calming view through rural rolling hills, or can be the dirtiest view of a mudflap that hasn’t seen clean water in weeks. Why do we have a windshield so big and open? Why don’t we have just a tiny portal, large enough to fit a driver’s head? It is because as drivers, we value the view, the good, the bad, the unclean.
Visionaries in the Driver’s Seat
Back in January 2019, Nuance featured gaze and voice interaction in the car at CES 2019. This technology collaboration with Saint Gobain allowed the driver to ask, “What’s the name of that place?” as they viewed an upcoming store through the windshield. The ability to interact with the windshield opens up the possibility that the glass isn’t just something to see through, but to see with.
Recently the Nuance DRIVE Lab researched just this – windows. The research showed that many eyes are on the windshield with 57% of participants saying the windshield was their favorite window in the car –perhaps for that dynamic view. One participant echoed this by saying that the front seat is the best because of the, “clear view facing forward and more legroom and access to the environment controls and radio.”
Front Row Favoritism
I think to my family car. Everyone calls out for that front passenger seat before piling into the car! Sure, there may be something to the additional leg room or the ease of access to the controls, but for me, it is the windshield. It is my access to the most information. The passengers in the backseat are missing lots of information:
“What does that license plate say?”
“Look at that sunrise.”
“Watch out! He is stopping ahead.”
The windshield is the view to possibilities. In another study, we had drivers sit in a vehicle rigged with our CES technology. They were able to test our windshield display while on an autonomous vehicle drive. We compared that windshield display to the more familiar infotainment display. “The windshield one is my favorite because if we are watching the center view [infotainment system] it is a bit difficult to look at the road,” one participant said.
The windshield and the infotainment system, however, were favored over the cell phone. Drivers statistically significantly missed seeing more objects on the road when we displayed the information on the cell phone (error rate, M =44.89%, SD = 30.28%) rather than no display at all (error rate, M = 26.29%, SD = 18.37%) “If you can phone up a friend or play music or do something just by your commands then why need cell phones?”
Distracting visuals, like a cell phone, has no place in the car. But natural, seamless interaction though the use of voice and the windshield displays can enhance ease distractions and allow drivers to focus on their view ahead. Just look through the windshield to see that all of the visuals that feed the mind valuable information. Just listen to the voice system to hear the comforting sounds coming from your infotainment system that were tested with users first. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a picture window to our tested users is worth million.