What will fully reconfigurable displays in GM cars look like in 2017?

Working with a manager in GM’s R&D department, our student team of 4 was hired to explore the future of all-digital instrument panels (summer 2007). Specifically, we focused on future models of the Cadillac CTS and the Chevrolet Impala. We carried out this work in the comfort of a windowless room at the Human Computer Interaction Institute on Carnegie Mellon’s campus.

Contribution: Design research, ideation sketching, strategy, wireframes and visual mockups.


During our brainstorming sessions, the team realized that digital displays needed to adapt to changing conditions to be truly useful: dynamic visual hierarchy. Pictured to the left, the Cadillac CTS’ display will reveal information in ways that match a driver’s mental model, such as the blind spot warning shown above.

When cruise control is set, the driver is interested primarily in his or her Set Speed and Follow Distance (a feature in many modern luxury cars). With the tachometer rendered pointless in this mode, this part of the display shows how far the CTS is from the car in front.


“Sport Mode” is all about driver excitement and control. By engaging the sequential-manual transmission, the driver wants to feel that they’re in control of a speed demon! The tachometer becomes the focus of attention and the display shows data that is relevant to performance driving.


In addition to exploring user interaction. We prepared many variations of our layouts to be used in research (a small sample at left). A study was conducted in collaboration between Carnegie Mellon’s Human Computer Interaction Institute and General Motors. Using our designs, the team tracked participants’ eye movements in a simulated driving environment. This could determine what kind of visual elements are helpful and which are distracting during an activity where looking at the display longer than 200 milliseconds is considered dangerous.