THE AIM IS TO FIND AN INTERFACE THAT IS UNIVERSAL AND EASY TO USE FOR ALL DRIVERS.
The simulator records a driver’s brain waves, and the way he or she looks at and uses all the devices inside the car: Dials, switches, buttons, meters, car navigation, audio equipment, air conditioning, the steering. From this the Human Engineering Team works out guidelines for the sizes and numbers of things in the vehicle, passing on this feedback to the design and planning departments. Of course, the test participants are not just drawn from the ranks of the ergonomics specialists themselves, but from regular members of the public as well, and in variations of gender, age and driving experience. The aim is to find an interface that is universal and easy to use for all drivers.
One example of something that has evolved through ergonomic testing with the driving simulator is the car navigation system, which integrates dials and buttons with a touchscreen. Drivers select what they want from the eight buttons, or use the touch panel interface or central rotating dial. Even when driving they don’t have to read the screen since they intuitively come to learn the controls through the physical feel of turning the dial. They can also operate the device through switches on the steering wheel. Combining a touchscreen with these kinds of switches and dials gives birth to an intuitive but safe interface.
Yonosuke Miki is Human Engineering Team Manager, in charge of harnessing the driving simulator to improve Nissan’s vehicles. Developing a car interface is special, he says. “Out of all the forms of mobility in the world – planes, ships – what is difficult for a car is that an unspecified number of people will use it daily.” Unlike pilots, who are trained, the controls of a car are operated by ordinary drivers, just normal people, so it’s vital to make an interface that is universal, safe, and user-friendly. And this is why at Nissan even the smallest switch in a car is also always evolving.