Why Does Every Car Infotainment System Look So Crappy?
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Cadillac has perhaps the ugliest option of the bunch
User interface design is hard, but we’ve been getting better at it over the years to the point where even a thermostat is easy to use. Automakers, however, seem to have their heads in the sand, taking their design inspiration for their infotainment consoles from old Winamp skins instead of any type of modern interface.
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I’ve been car shopping recently, which means I’ve sat in a variety of models new and old with a salesperson attempting to justify why their shitty infotainment system—the little dashboard that usually controls at least the radio and phone options—is better than the competition. Pair that up with a number of rentals over the years and I’ve seen about every car infotainment system around. With a couple very rare exceptions, they’re universally horrible and feel like they’re designed by someone who hasn’t used a computer since 2000.
Most automakers have their own brand of infotainment systems and their bad design is more than skin deep. For example, Audi has MMI, an insane system that uses dials for menu navigation instead of a touchscreen unless you pay to upgrade it. Audi isn’t the only one to eschew modern innovation either, BMW’s iDrive and Mercedes’s Comand both rely on dials for input as well. For years, Lexus has relied on what was basically a mouse for navigation which is as insanely stupid and challenging to use in real life as it sounds.
Most carmakers at least use touch screens, though their interfaces are cluttered and ugly. Ford has SYNC, Nissan has Connect, Toyota has Entune, Kia has UVO, Subaru has STARLINK, and so on and so on. As an example, here’s Entune one of the worst options, which looks more at home on a laptop running Windows ME than it does in a brand new car:
Or look at this insane mess of nonsense, from Cadillac’s CUE: