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E-Vehicles have been getting bigger and better over the years and with more and more technological advancements happening this industry is sure to experience a major jump in its quality. With better looking and attractive dashboards, neater, cleaner and more intuitive home screens that are better to use and much more user friendly, requiring bare minimum amount of attention to maintain.

But these technological advancements have unfortunately been slowed down due to many reasons. With more functionality, now there’s even more clutter, more hidden menus, systems are often difficult to navigate and at times even pulling over and taking a good look doesn’t help you a lot.

Case in point with the Maybach GLS 600, on a recent drive, I just couldn’t find how to switch off the Heads Up Display. I tried menu after menu and location after location, but I just couldn’t find it. After a bit I just gave up, then in frustration I tried the voice prompt. “Hey Mercedes… switch off the Heads Up Display,” I called. And then, to my surprise, back came the reply, “Switching Heads Up Display off”. It worked! I was elated, and I was driving at the time.

The problem of complexity is something designers of fighter aircraft cockpits have been struggling with for years. Earlier plagued by too many ‘steam gauges’ or a vast array of dials, today there are problems associated with the ‘glass cockpit’ and too much information coming at you, all at the same time. Imagine having to hit a touchscreen accurately while flying upside down, all the while keeping your eye on an adversary. It’s no wonder that fighter jocks got Heads Up Displays first? And they’ve got another system – HOTAS (Hands On Throttle and Stick), that’s a bit like a modern-day Ferrari steering wheel, where all the buttons and knobs are placed right on the wheel, so you don’t need to take your hands off.

There are other things designers of automotive displays can learn from the flyboys. Step number one is de-clutter. Then, it’s essential to have a well-structured and intuitive menu system, where it’s easy to find stuff and finally, voice commands can prove invaluable once quality levels improve.

In fact, using Apple’s Siri is now both the easiest and safest way to make a phone call from your car. Doing so with Google or Alexa is just as easy. Apple’s CarPlay, however, stands out as the best thought out, cleanest and clearest automotive screen-based interface yet. The large icons and big fonts mean you seldom aim and miss on the move, the menu is clear and easy to navigate and Apple has even built safety systems into many of its features. Can’t wait to experience the upgraded CarPlay that’s just around the corner. Isn’t it time car makers got their act together and created some well thought-out interfaces of their own? Audi and Volkswagen have some of the best interfaces, but there’s still a long way to go.

Most of the independent’s have the first mover advantage but automakers are now beefing up their used car offering.

The recently released Microsoft Search in India 2021 report shows that online search for used vehicles went up eight times between January 2020 and 2021. Search for scooters went up 24 times, while that for online two-wheeler insurance went up 21 times. Does this imply three clear trends – 

(1) preference for used cars over new

(2) preference for two-wheelers over cars, and

(3) preference for online purchase portals over physical?

The post-pandemic world will certainly recast the way Indian consumers go about the journey of vehicle choosing and buying. Realising this, a few automakers have already digitised as many of the interfaces in the customer journey as possible and we are seeing a mushrooming of third-party aggregator platforms, which are fusing information sites with buying sites. A decade back, we had a clear demarcation between the two. Carwale used to be a platform for evaluation and lead-generation, while CarTrade was a used-car one. Today, the roles are blurred as both categories are going in for forward / backward integration.

Carwale, OLX Autos, Droom or CarDekho is a direct threat to the automaker’s used-car business vertical. As most automakers have treated this vertical as an ‘appendage’ for long, the independents have had the first-mover advantage when it comes to variety, price points and value-added services like documentation.

Given the growing preference for used vehicles, automakers are now scurrying to integrate the entire buying solutions across new and used vehicles. On the other hand, the aggregators are busy incorporating new vehicles in their repertoire.

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