CES 2015: Harman builds CarPlay solution based on steering wheel-mounted touchpad

Integrated Essentials Cockpit image 001

Jeremy Horwitz of 9to5Mac had a chance to play with Harman’s novel CarPlay solution at CES 2015 which ditches touchscreen-based interactions in favor of a steering wheel-mounted touchpad.

Harman, which designs and sells audio and infotainment equipment, says its Integrated Essentials Cockpit is noteworthy as it doesn’t render UI on an in-car display like other CarPlay systems, but rather puts it in the dashboard directly behind the steering wheel.

Such an approach could be viewed as better compared to touchscreen-based CarPlay systems for a number of reasons, yet isn’t without its pitfalls.

Not only does the driver need not glance towards the middle of the car for touchscreen interactions, but can interact with CarPlay using a touchpad built into the steering wheel.

An example photo top of post shows how Harman positions the CarPlay interface between a left-side speedometer and a right-side tachometer. As you can see for yourself, the layout even puts the current temperature above the CarPlay UI while the remaining fuel indicator is below it.

The integrated solution may even help mitigate the risk of a faulty CarPlay connection breaking speedometer or odometer functionality compared to rival CarPlay systems.

“If CarPlay crashes or hangs, everything else continues to run properly,” the author writes.

Integrated Essentials Cockpit image 002

I’m sure many people will appreciate the convenience of having everything related to driving and CarPlay conveniently placed in the dashboard behind the steering wheel, but I’m not one of them.

It’s a tad overwhelming to have all those CarPlay icons and the UI so close to the speedometer and tachometer. I could be wrong of course, but it just seems to me that it takes away focus from the context of driving.

Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but infotainment wants to be mounted in the middle of the car, not behind the steering wheel.

What say you?

Does Harman’s use of CarPlay distract from driving?