Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Follow the Leader: CUE Drives Cadillac Instrument Cluster

Cadillac has taken a step we love - with one caveat. The instrument cluster in the new XTS is now connected to, and powered by, the company's CUE (Cadillac User Experience) infotainment system.
The Digital Dash is available on the XTS' Premium and Platinum trim levels and gives the driver four different designs to choose from. This reconfigurable gauge layout is our only bone to pick with the idea. We don't feel that a driver should be "distracted" by instrument cluster choices. But this is not a rant.
In fact, it is quite the opposite. The instrument cluster is the primary source of communication from the car to the driver, revealing its current operation and health. The growing sophistication of automotive infotainment systems in the center stack has, by default, created a second source of that communication. We applaud their marriage as a solid first step to what can be a powerful re-write of the outdated rules of instrument cluster design.
Two way voice communication is seen in the infotainment systems available from most manufacturers. The systems can take voice commands from drivers for a variety of functions and offer turn-by-turn navigation commands to the driver in return. The CUE-powered Digital Dash opens the door to a whole new frontier.
With every new system on today's automobiles comes the problem of how to tell a driver when that system encounters a problem. The industry turns immediately to the old order - it creates a new idiot light. And lately, text has been added in the limited space in the instrument cluster, offering scant information at best.
The power of voice offers a real alternative. Through the infotainment system, an automobile could alert a driver to a problem by voice without the need for the driver to take his or her eyes off the road. It can then offer real help and instruction - the first cut questions that every driver needs answered. "Is this a serious problem?" "Can I keep driving?" "How far can I go / how much time do I have?"
Taken a step further, information could be supplied that would offer a deep explanation of the system and the issue - as deep as a driver requests, and still without requiring their eyes be diverted to the instrument cluster.
Even the fault codes could be made available for repair personnel. But this is about drivers.

In anticipation of Siri integration and an Eyes Free solution, we have previously advocated for the connection of the center stack to the instrument cluster and the replacement of the current warning light system. It is time to develop a truly effective communication system between cars and drivers.
Cadillac has taken the first step.
Drivers need help and at, we are developing tools to do just that. Our second tool, now available for Apple and Android platforms is a Mobile app that puts a ready reference in the palm of your hands for getting into and starting push-button start vehicle with dead remote controls from 13 major manufacturers. And our original Dashboard Symbols app is available as well.

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