Part 1 The 1960 Chrysler Imperial, flag bearer of the Chrysler Corporation, bears a special significance familiarity to me, as our family car for a while was a 1963 Chrysler New Yorker, featuring many similarities with this particular car of the future. Like the car’s styling, and American automotive styling in general, the dash design was anything but plain, featuring an elaborate sculptural shape and numerous features from remote controlled mirrors, to speed control, map lights, automatic headlights, and in some models, a telephone!

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The Imperial instrument panel (or dashboard) featured a number of innovations, including a world’s first: electroluminescent gauges. This sort of gauge cluster did not become generally popular until much later. There was also an oval steering wheel, and pushbutton automotive shift (see buttons to left of the steering wheel). Chrysler pushed innovative dashboard concepts during this time period, but later dropped one of the most innovative features, the push-button transmission for reasons of reliability. I do remember my dad or mom sometimes having to open the driver’s door and needing to rock the car with their foot on the curb, to get it unjammed out of Park. For this reason Mom never parked our Chrysler on a hill.

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The Rolls Royce Next Vision 100 is a ‘concept car’ (built for auto shows and press purposes–not for production) intended to show the world Rolls Royce’s concept of the future of luxury in a car. On approaching the car, the car detects its owner and opens both roof and door wide and welcoming. It also extends a red carpet on the ground via laser lighting from the car. The car is self-piloted by a personal assistant / concierge / chauffeur named Eleanor (named after the model for the famed Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament: not the rave queen).

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The Next Vision 100 is remarkably high level in its concepts, interestingly these are described in (appropriately) archetypal terms, including:

  • The “Personal Vision”: One of a limitless number of possible personal visions of a Rolls-Royce of the future
  • The “Grand Sanctuary”: The vehicle interior as a private retreat
  • The “Effortless Journey”: Guided by “Eleanor”, the passenger’s virtual assistant.
  • The “Grand Arrival”: Stepping out at your destination in ultimate elegance.

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Looking at cars of the future may lead us to wonder how practical some of these ideas are: the Tesla Model S answers just this kind of question with a pretty clear answer: the future is here, now.

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Being a 100% electric production car, the Model S demonstrates today you can have sufficient range, power, speed, luxury, and space in an all electric car, right now, for $100,000, give or take. This includes two flat digital screen, including in the center bin, the largest in any production car: 17″.

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The screen in front of the driver, in this view, indicates a lovely combination of three varying forms of visual metaphor and performance indicators. From left to right, a 3-d map, for navigation, a analog-appearing ’round’ speedometer and a series of gauges labeled with standard international automotive component symbols.

It is fascinating to notice and delight in the enormous variety of dashboards (and the cars they appear in), but what is truly and ultimately most astounding is that all of the cars in both this article and Part 1 can be driven after a few minutes familiarization by anyone who has passed a driver’s test. Think of it: cars spanning production from 1939 to the present day–almost eighty years, can all be piloted safely, and similarly within a few minutes by any modern driver. How is that possible?

When you think of the contrast, namely trying to pilot or ‘drive’ any kind of computer technology, you can clearly see we are at a mutual disadvantage: there is no one standard of computer ‘driving’, and therefore, no standardization (nor paradoxically, the beautiful and wide variety of designs) that are common to these ‘car of the future’ dashboards. Part 1

Bryce Winter is PASSIONATE about design, interfaces, brands and relationship between humans and machines.