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October 2014


The time has come for an upgradable car.

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Just over a year ago, an unknown Dutch designer named Dave Hakkens posted a video on YouTube that set the internet abuzz. His idea was Phonebloks, and the modular smartphone he proposed was a response to the throw-away culture in the electronics industry. It firmly hit the mark with consumers who have grown tired of the designed obsolescence model that currently dominates smartphones and other personal electronics. With the auto industry now spending so much time, effort, and money designing and promoting smartphone-like infotainment systems, there's nowhere that would be a more appropriate implementation of modular or upgradeable components.

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Driving a lot of empty seats

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It’s not an uncommon thing to find yourself driving a car full of empty seats. Most car drivers do it most of the time, so we generally don’t tend to think about very often.  
But then isn’t it odd that more than half of the car seats travelling on the road right now are empty? On average every car has only 1.6 occupants. Isn’t it a major waste of resource, and one that perhaps car designers might think about?  

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In the world of HMI, is less always more?

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As Drew Smith, Director of Consulting at Seren remarked to me recently “there is only one screen in my W140 S-class – it’s for the temperature display”. Contrast that with the (three generations newer) S63 AMG Coupe I drove last week, which features two 12.3” TFT displays as its primary means of driver communication and interaction.

It’s not unusual to be greeted by a world of screens beyond the door of modern cars. But the S63’s tandem screens really are something else. Yet they ultimately raise more questions than they provide answers for.

The rationale for their existence is simple. So complex and technically customisable is the new S-Class, that trying to provide an interface other than a constantly reconfigurable digital display, is inconceivable. 

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