Jasper’s car dashboard

Jasper is a longtime friend of Theo’’s who offers his home as a safe house for a time. Jasper’’s civilian vehicle features a device on its dashboard that merits some attention. It is something like a small laptop computer, with a flat screen in a roughly pill-shaped black plastic frame mounted in the center of the dashboard. The top half of this screen shows a view from a backwards-facing camera mounted on the vehicle.

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The lower half shows a number of different mode- and context-aware displays. The first we see is an overhead schematic of the vehicle, showing pulses moving back and forth from the front to the rear of the car, similar to Prius dash displays that display the transfer of power between the brakes and the battery.

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As the vehicle nears Jasper’’s house, the overhead schematic view draws up and is replaced with a column of text, which is in turn replaced by a circular object with animated rays projecting from it. Neither Jasper nor Theo gives the screen any notice during the scene.

Several dings

It’s dangerous to ask drivers to parse columns of text while operating a vehicle. Information must be glanceable.

The monochrome display seems to unnecessarily constrain the color palette. It’s good to give color blind users modes that optimize the display for monochrome, and if we’re being generous, we can presume Jasper’s done just that.

But on the other hand, the monochrome minimizes the distractions that the mode switching causes. Note that the rapid changes that happen when Jasper is not on open road, but nearing a building. His attention should be on navigating the space ahead of him rather than on the screen. Maybe the monochrome helps ameliorate this.

Lastly note that the dashboard also features a full keyboard beneath the screen, positioned for the driver’s use. Since we never see it in use, let’s hope it’s mot actually meant to be used while driving. Better would be a more suitable input mechanism like voice that doesn’t occupy the driver’s hands and eyes to use.

But wait

But those dings make more sense when we consider the interface narratively. The big clue is why would it persistently show a backwards facing camera when he’s driving forward? Can’t he just use the rear-view mirror? Seems to be something a normal driver wouldn’t concern themselves with. But it is something that a member of an underground resistance might be interested in, to use computer vision algorithms to help him know if he or she was being tailed or there was some threat behind him. That clue (along with the contrast to Syd’s car display) hints that this is not an off-the-shelf system, but something that Jasper has hacked together for himself. Maybe the software is shared amongst resistance members.

In any case a homemade system can’t be expected to have the same level of usability as a professionally designed one. So narratively, this interface earns a pass.

5 thoughts on “Jasper’s car dashboard

  1. I’ve seen a lot of dashboards touchscreen monitor with GPS tracker, but I never saw anything like this before. This would be perfect for my car I always go for a ride every weekend with my family and I think this would be a good idea if I add this to my car.

  2. Pingback: Syd’s dash display | Sci-fi interfaces

  3. A little late but I hope still worth asking: could a persistent rear facing camera be better than the current day rear view and side view mirrors?

    • For information delivery to the driver: probably (as long as they’re not modal/changing). For reliability compared to a reflective surface: Not nearly. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Jasper’s home alarm | Sci-fi interfaces

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