The idea of customizing your in-car display seems unthinkable. Most displays are hard-coded to prevent the driver from changing anything, and if the driver thinks some icons are distracting, that's just too bad.
The design pendulum could be swinging the other way, though. Recently, Cadillac revealed how they decided to make the CUE (Cadillac User Experience) interface more customizable. To develop CUE, they gathered 2,500 Post-It notes from real drivers and found that they wanted to configure the dash to suit their tastes.
When I drove the 2013 CTS sedan, I could drag and drop icons around the screen--say, putting Pandora at the top for easy access, and the phone dialer icon to the right. A Favorites bar also pops up from the bottom, where you can drop more icons. Right above the steering wheel, you can customize the view for seeing a trip timer or energy use.
Another vehicle is taking this a step further. In the 2014 Chevrolet Impala, you can dramatically alter the dash interface by choosing a completely different design scheme. There's one that looks like it has a Japanese anime feel and one that uses flat, easy-to-spot colors.
Where could this lead? Experts say a fully customizable dash interface is on the forefront. "User interfaces in the vehicle will become highly customizable in the future in order to meet consumers' varying preferences," says Thilo Koslowski of Gartner. "That level of customization won't be limited to icons on a touch screen, but encompass a combination of mixing voice, displays, sensors, and haptics, including good old physical buttons."
We're not quite ready for the fully customizable car. Sure, 3D printing is gaining a foothold--someday, we might be able to print and assemble a car in our garage. A few years ago, GM hinted at the future "printable" car with the EN-V microcar's several unique designs. But customizing the display's user interface is a big step already. Now if only Apple would let me do that on my iPad!