5 Reasons Why Cars are the Next Digital User Experience

An example of personalised HMI for car users

Digital disruption has reached the automotive industry. Consumer demand is driving the rapid transition from traditional, physical dashboards with knobs and dials to digital screens and human-machine interfaces (HMIs). Meanwhile, as cars are turning into data centers, the potential for creating connected services offers car manufacturers opportunities for significant new revenue. And with access to new, agile development tools, car manufacturers are finding it easier to create compelling digital car user experiences that can strengthen their brand and differentiate from competition.

In this article, Rightware lists the top 5 reasons why cars are becoming the next significant platform for digital user experiences.

1. Consumer Demand

Today’s consumers have grown accustomed to high-quality digital experiences via their mobile devices. The beautifully designed apps and services they consume on their mobile devices provide them with always-on access to their personal information. Consumers are used to constantly getting more value through regular feature updates. Car buyers are now expecting automotive companies to provide the same kind of digital experiences in a brand new vehicle.


With 'digital dashboards', adding digital screens and human-machine interfaces to the interior of a car allows data from mobile devices and from the cloud to be fully integrated into the core driving experience – the manufacturers that give car buyers what they want by turning this data into personalized services that continue to improve over time will benefit from higher customer satisfaction.

The personalised car use experience

 Rightware’s ”Triton – Connected HMI” concept, seamlessly combining data from the car, the user’s personal devices and the cloud

2. Branding

Branding and brand image are paramount in the automotive industry. Those car manufacturers that have already succeeded in bringing branded digital user experiences into their vehicles are enjoying increased media exposure. These brands are seen as innovative and progressive, and it’s not just the automotive press that’s paying attention – the media in general are writing stories about the manufacturers that deliver a unique and well thought out digital user experience in the car.

This means that there’s currently a huge opportunity for using digital user interface elements such as high-fidelity OEM branded graphics, responsive, well-designed screens and personalized apps to build a user experience that generates buzz and positive brand association – the manufacturers that successfully use digital design to set themselves apart from their competitors will develop a loyal brand following.

The IVI system in a Tesla Model S

The infotainment system on a Tesla Model S (P85D) – an iconic element of the Tesla brand


The virtual cockpit cluster in an Audi Q7

"Virtual Cockpit" digital instrument cluster in the Audi Q7, powered by Rightware Kanzi


“The prognosis for the installation rate for the Virtual Cockpit in the Q7 was lower from us, and now it’s gone through the roof. “
“...the Virtual Cockpit is an Audi signature now.”
- Ricky Hudi, Head of Cockpit Electronics, Audi (SOURCE)

"The (Audi) TT's clever dash thoroughly impressed us” –Ars Technica (SOURCE)

3. Revenue Potential of Digital Services

According to BI Intelligence, there will be around 220 million connected cars on the road by 2020. And with the market for connected car services and hardware expected to grow to $152B by the same year, car manufacturers have a significant opportunity for revenue growth.

Cars are becoming data centers with each car soon having a variety of interconnected servers providing data. By turning this data into insights about key areas of the driving experience, car manufacturers can create compelling subscription-based services that car buyers are willing to pay for . These services can provide consumers with e.g. assistance and safety features as well as exciting new ways to enjoy their car through OTA updates, and provide car companies with potential for significant additional revenue streams – the manufacturers that use vehicle data to create fully-integrated digital experiences will benefit financially through service-based revenue.

Car diagnostics screen in a configurable digital instrument cluster by Rightware

Car diagnostics screen in a configurable digital instrument cluster by Rightware

4. Differentiation for car users

Car manufacturers have started to provide support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on the infotainment screen. Apple and Google have entered the car and it has become challenging for manufacturers to avoid offering these services because consumers already have a long history with these companies’ ecosystems.

Car companies have realized that by investing in digital design, they can provide outstanding digital user experiences and leverage the added value of deep integration with the key elements of the driving experience, they’ll be able differentiate and deliver connected car experiences to rival those of their competitors, as well as Apple and Google.

Apple CarPlay on an infotainment screen

Apple CarPlay on an infotainment screen

5. Availability of New Automotive Development Tools

Digital screens are coming to cars at all price points. Studies show (IHS Auto Tech Report - Automotive User Interfaces - 2014) that by 2017, over 70% of new cars will ship with a digital display in the instrument cluster. The increase of digital user interfaces and their importance for the consumer is forcing car manufacturers to look for more agile and scalable ways to design and implement digital user interfaces across all vehicle segments.

In the past, manufacturers have been slow to market with their digital designs as they’ve relied on traditional software development methods with long iteration cycles. But things have changed and there are now automotive-grade user interface software solutions available that can dramatically decrease time-to-market and add agility into the development process. These solutions enable car manufacturers to:

1. Leverage a pre-built user interface framework for creating user interfaces without writing code, reducing time-to-market
2. Prototype user interfaces on actual automotive hardware, enabling faster iterations
3. Provide a common tool chain for both designers and engineers, improving collaboration in today’s distributed teams
4. Create responsive, high-fidelity branded user interfaces with seamlessly combined 2D and 3D graphics, improving the end-user experience

Digital instrument cluster in the QNX Technology Concept Car, a Maserati Quattroporte, created with Kanzi.

Digital instrument cluster in the QNX Technology Concept Car, a Maserati Quattroporte, created with Kanzi

Today's average high-end car has 8 times more lines of code than a Boeing 787 – the connected car is here and the manufacturers that get the digital user experience right will be rewarded with a loyal customer base. And with the right software tools now available, the car is set to become the next digital user experience.


 Discover best practices for agile HMI prototyping and development to  accelerate UX innovation