Business Week [businessweek.com] reports about the latest prototype dashboard concept developed together with Smart Design: giving drivers a wealth of information in an enticing format without confusing or, worse, distracting them, proved challenging. Complex graphs or fuel usage timelines were ignored in favor for more iconographic alternatives: "Fuel gauges, for instance, are represented by an image of a tank filled with an oil-like yellow liquid".
User research discovered how drivers get obsessed with achieving a "high score", that is the lowest fuel usage. Therefore, fuel efficiency is represented by an "eye-catching rendering of curling vines blooming with green leaves: It's more than a decorative element; it's a data-visualization tool intended to change the way people drive. If a driver wastes gas by aggressively accelerating or slamming on the brakes, for example, the vine withers and leaves disappear. More leaves appear if individuals drive more economically." Even more, this "data visualization" dashboard will be available standard on all new Ford Fusion Hybrids.
Proposing such an abstract, let's say quite artistic (vine leaves? in a car?), data display is quite surprising. Is this the resurrection of the ambient display concept?
For an opposite approach, also see the post about the Lamborghini Reventón dashboard. Same topic also on The Wall Street Online, Take Apart, The Motor Report, and a lot of other car blogs. Via Flowing Data.