Advances in consumer electronic devices such as cell phones and laptops are changing drivers' perceptions about the design of information technology in vehicles. As a result, the days of the cloned radio and two levels of interior trim may already be history.
Simply put, just as consumers can customize their phones, drivers will have more ways to make their cars' interiors reflect their personal tastes.
"There's a lot of cross-fertilization between consumer electronics and automotive these days," says Len Poole, global technical services manager at AkzoNobel Specialty Plastics Coatings, a unit of the Netherlands' AkzoNobel NV. "The interface between the two is becoming more similar because people want to have the same experience with their car's radio or navigation display as they do with their cell phone."
A few years ago, radio bezels, climate controls and other displays and dials in the instrument panel center cluster were typically cloned across a platform of vehicles, sometimes even crossing brands. Today, they are often unique to a vehicle nameplate.
But in one respect, consumers' ability to customize their interiors will be limited. Consumers want increased connectivity, but that presents a challenge to car designers. Increased integration of interactivity in a car must not compromise passenger safety by creating a source of distraction.