A Review of Chevy Bolt EV’s User Interface Design

Bolt’s Launch Overview

Last week, the Consumer-Electronics Show (CES 2016) started off with a bang, or more like a Bolt EV. Chevrolet launched its newest entry into the electric car market the Chevy Bolt. On Monday, the Bolt made its second accolade-filled appearance. This time at the North American International Autoshow (NAIAS 2016) in Detroit.

The Bolt is not a  hybrid. It is a hundred-percent electric. It has a more rugged look than many of the other electric/hybrid cars on the market today, like a miniature SUV.

Some of Bolt’s sales specs are:

  • 200 miles of range
  • $40k price tag (excluding federal tax credits)
  • 60-kWh battery


Bolt’s Hardware

While images of sleek car bodies taking curves in slow motion and shiny exterior views sell autos. However, we’re interested in the user flow and interface that define drivers UX. We’ll focus on the true functionality of the Bolt EV. A car owner’s primary point of interaction is the console computer. That alone will define if the Bolt EV is a good or bad car to drive.

First, let’s tackled the Bolt’s screen and connectivity specs. The Bolt’s center console has a 10.2-inch, tablet-like, touch display for all system navigation. Connectivity features include 4G TLE Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Google Maps.

2016 chevrolet bolt dash
A Digital Scientists’ Review

We must start this review with a disclaimer. We discovered the Bolt EV at CES2016, and have not had an opportunity to explore the car in full detail. So what we are able to give is a brief UX/UI review from what we have seen thus far. In the future, we will arrange a full test drive and give an update to this review.

image of UX director
We asked our UX Director, J.R. Gunderson for his opinion on Chevy Bolt’s user interface. Below is J.R.’s 9 point review on Bolt’s user interface.

What’s Good:

  1. Crisp­ designed, contextual menus for dash cluster displays.
  2. Both on­screen and physical controls (dashboard /steering wheel) are available for most common actions.
  3. Hardware allows for future UI improvements. Improvements such as day/night display modes, user­ adjustable handling options and more.


What’s Okay: 

  1. The configurable home screen is an optimistic approach to the interface. We have found that UIs generally remain unchanged from the default.
  2. The limited graphing of energy usage is interesting, but not impressive.
  3. GM has hinted at potential of future, wireless over­ the­ air updates to car firmware.


What’s Bad:

  • The oversimplified layout is an ineffective use of available screen
  • The cartoonish 3D car rendering for the battery status is a sub­par graphic treatment.
  • The use of MyLink for software updating makes it more burdensome for app developers to create for the platform. MyLink’s proprietary, model ­specific UI is a bit limited to effectively update firmware on manufacturer­ wide platform scale.


Designing an Effective UX

The UX for a vehicle, as an Internet of Things device, is imperative to design correctly. The ergonomics and control accessibility must have a balanced designed. It must live between function and visual interest. An unbalanced design can be distracting to the driver, and thus a safety hazard.

Great user experience always is a solution to a problem. Below are five questions that a UX should answer.

  1. Discoverability. Can a user discover how to accomplish their tasks the first time they look at the interface?
  2. Learnability. How quickly can a user predict and more from one part of the interface to another?
  3. Efficiency. Can repetitive tasks be accomplished quickly and easily?
  4. System Performance. How fast is the system response time for performing users tasks?
  5. Delight. Does the interface delight drivers will it create an emotional connection?

Summary

The primary function of UX is developing a delightful, emotional, and sensory experience. This is why it’s vital to customer experiences and engagement. Most importantly, it’s devised with an end in mind. In the case of the Chevy Bolt, a new layer is added to the driving experience. Automotive design focuses more on engineering and aerodynamics and less on interior graphics. This must change. An entire vehicle’s brand identity should be demonstrated on that small screen. Soon cars will be sold based the lines of the car, the sound of the engine and the functionality of its interface.