Demonstrating how Apple’s CarPlay will be integrated into upcoming budget vehicles, Harman has shown the Integrated Essentials Cockpit, a new OEM solution that does away with direct touchscreen interaction in favor of a steering wheel-mounted touchpad. The Integrated Essentials Cockpit eliminates the currently popular center console-mounted screen, instead bringing Apple’s CarPlay interface directly into the dashboard behind the steering wheel.
Unusually, the CarPlay UI then sits between a left-side speedometer and a right-side tachometer, below a bar with a thermometer and above a fuel gauge and odometer. More pictures and details are below.
What’s different about this particular CarPlay system is the complete lack of direct touchscreen interaction once your iPhone is connected. All input is registered using a touchpad built into the steering wheel, an example of which is shown below. Indirect finger gestures – including swiping and tapping – are required to move between CarPlay app icons, select everything on screen, and so on.
The major benefit of the system is to enable a car manufacturer to eliminate the need for two screens — one in front of the steering wheel and one in the center console — while preserving the same basic functionality. A driver can stop glancing towards the middle of the car for touchscreen interactions.
Although it’s a single-screen system, the Integrated Essentials Cockpit has been designed to avoid problems that might come up when bringing CarPlay together with a car’s other computer systems. Major risks, such as having a faulty CarPlay connection break speedometer or odometer functionality, have been eliminated in Harman’s implementation by running CarPlay in a “hypervisor” – a sandboxed window inside the rest of the computer system. If CarPlay crashes or hangs, everything else continues to run properly.
On the other hand, the touchpad-based UI requires a lot of additional gestures (swipe right, right, right, down) that would normally be accomplished with a single tap. The Integrated Essentials Cockpit therefore isn’t a premium option; it’s there solely for carmakers who want to add CarPlay inexpensively.
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