Nissan developed new techniques to allow for disappearing virtual buttons
All part of reinventing interior design to take full advantage of EV
Nissan says that the new Ariya electric crossover has meant they’ve needed to rethink the entire cabin. To come up with new solutions to ergonomic problems as they work to create a more modern cabin that takes advantage of the new layouts allowed by electrification while maintaining the usability customers expect. That’s lead to what it calls the power of touch.
“You’re on a drive to a friend’s house. It’s a hot and sunny day, and you need to cool the cabin of your car. Doing this normally requires only muscle memory to reach out to the dash and turn a knob or tap a button. But for engineers this simple action demands extreme attention to detail and redefining ways to keep the sweat off your brow,” is the scenario Nissan presented.
Designers wanted the cabin of the Nissan Ariya to be open and spacious, “offering a sense of calm and serenity.” That means a dashboard without buttons, but as drivers know, fewer buttons is often a terrible solution when it comes to usability. Especially when driving.
The solution from the automaker was a new generation of haptic feedback and a new way to integrate physical buttons into the wood-grain trim. Nissan has been able to hide the physical controls behind the wood. Lit-up when the car is on and gone when it is off. It has the potential to be a best of both sides solution, but could easily also be the worst of both.
To prevent the latter, Nissan has added haptic feedback inspired by the smartphone. Touch the virtual buttons and you can’t feel them, but with haptic feedback, the driver can both hear and feel that they’ve pressed the control without taking their eyes off of the road.
“We created a clean space by blending the haptic controls with the grain of the interior’s wood grain finish. We did this in a way that didn’t affect the performance of the controls, allowing us to achieve both functionality and an attractive appearance,” said Senior Designer Hideki Tago. “By applying a wood grain pattern to the plastic panels with a hydro-printing process, we gave them a very realistic wood-like feeling. At the same time, this allowed transparent icons to come to life when illuminated.”
Nissan is using the controls in two specific groups in the Ariya. The dashboard, and the adjustable center armrest. The buttons Nissan has used will be larger than traditional haptic controls, with wider spacing, with allows for a more intuitive feeling and an amplified tactile sensation that feels more like a real button, Nissan said.