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McLaren 720S Cluster-6.jpg

McLaren flips the cluster

Geneva saw some big step changes in HMI. McLaren debuted a novel flip-down, two-state cluster — reprising an idea Nissan first showcased in Tokyo last year with the IDS concept.

This time, though, McLaren’s put it into production. In normal, deployed mode, the 8-inch digital panel displays the revs, speed, fuel, oil, engine temp and trip information. However, press a button to the side of the column and it pivots flat through 90 degrees, revealing a slim, end-on display with just speed, revs and gear selection.

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This is clearly a novelty, foremost — something other cars don’t offer, that’s intended to appeal to the predominantly male, gadgets-obsessed buyers of cars like the 720S.

Yet it’s actually an interesting prelude to a future world of multi-mode interfaces. These will operate in a ‘deployed’ — full info — mode, and also a background ‘minimum info necessary’ state. It was a trend we saw reflected in other Geneva cars, which featured ‘deployed’ and ‘folded away’ background screens. This dual mode approach aims to answer some key questions that current in-car HMI is throwing up for users. How much information do you need? What do you want to see? The answer tends to be very much context dependent. With the Nissan concept, that context depended on self-driving or autonomous mode. With the McLaren, it is about road versus track. 

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The bigger question this raises, as OEMs add more in-car technology features, is how does the interface best present information clearly, and in an expected way? How does it allow users to make sense (quickly) of what they see? And how many choices are users asked to make (or offered) about how and what they see on in-car screens?