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UX Quick Check of Car Infotainment Systems

August 16, 2012

This article is re-posted from SirValUse blog.

Developments in the automotive industry are driven by innovations from various disciplines. Connectivity and digital technology play a major role in this convergence, navigation and assistive systems are becoming more important, and alternative power sources compete with the dominant combustion engine. As part of an internal benchmarking study, GfK SirValUse (now GfK’s User Experience team) analysed the user experience (UX) of infotainment systems. Our experts conducted UX Quick Checks with five systems, including: Audi’s MMI in the A8 4.2 TDI, BMW’s iDrive 4 in the 750i L, Mercedes Benz’ Comand in the S350 L, VW’s RNS810 in the Phaeton 3.0 TDI, and the Opel Ampera’s infotainment system.

Our overall impression was quite sobering. Although most core use cases could be carried out, none of the systems was very inspiring. There is a remarkable difference between the manufacturers’ interaction concepts, meaning there is no ‘standard’ in this area.

Audi MMI

The MMI offered a large 8-inch display which slides out of the dashboard. This allows drivers to easily read it without having to move their gaze too far from the road.

Using the MMI requires a greater amount of familiarization than with competitors’ systems.  For instance, the connection between the four screen corners and the four keys around the central controller is not instantly clear. Also, the controller’s rotating direction opposes drivers’ expectations: instead of scrolling down in a list they have to turn it counter clockwise.

However, once you manage to overcome the initial obstacles, Audi’s MMI can be used quickly and safely, with a high joy of use. The design focuses on the essentials and avoids distracting background images. The menus are clearly arranged and goals can be achieved quickly.

The four-corner navigation and menu key allow quick access to content and functions. Each of the four corners of the screen acts like a context menu with four elements. The elements can be activated by pressing the corresponding keys. In contrast, BMW and Mercedes use a twist/push/tilt controller and require additional selection.

It is very easy to connect a phone or MP3 player via Bluetooth with Audi’s MMI. The system instructions are clear and you quickly find the four-digit code needed to connect. Thus, even inexperienced users can easily and quickly connect their Bluetooth devices (at least while the car is parked). The process is significantly more complicated and cumbersome with the other manufacturers’ systems. The researchers had to consult the VW manual to set up a Bluetooth connection with the RNS810.

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