Is your car’s cabin ‘like a jet fighter’s cockpit’?
It’s a phrase that is littered across new car brochures and news releases the world over. But a recent investigation has finally revealed that, however beloved the comparison is to manufacturers, there is no truth in the assertion.
Researchers worked with BAE Systems, maker of the Typhoon fighter jet, and asked genuine jet cockpit designers to rate the interior of a modern sports car, namely the Jaguar F-type roadster.
The study found that, while jet cockpits are designed with functionality and ergonomics in mind, in a car style takes preference, leaving the interiors of the two with virtually nothing in common.
The Typhoon’s cockpit features a dizzying array of panels, each featuring countless switches, knobs and buttons – some of them so far behind the pilot that they can’t be seen. A central joystick has 130 separate functions, while three screens in front of the pilot can each display a baffling amount of information.
Miles Turner, head of BAE Systems’ Typhoon Cockpit Group, said: “The primary controls or the most important ones are to the forefront of the cockpit and the less crucial ones are out-of-the-way. The other key point is that we try to group functions together, such as communications and the radio controls. Because many of the controls are out of the pilot’s line of sight, he has to be able to identify them quickly and accurately by feel.”
The most obvious crossover between a jet fighter and a car is the head-up display (HUD), but it was found that the level of information displayed in a car (typically speed, time etc) bears no resemblance to the enormous amount of information in the Typhoon; target selection, interception details, speeds, times and a multitude of other data can be displayed, covering almost the whole HUD.
The modern car is undoubtedly getting more complicated, with manufacturers throwing more ‘infotainment’ features, such as apps and internet access, at drivers. Indeed, i’s thought by some that this causes more accidents than statistics show because of eyes focusing inside the cabin rather than on the road than.
It’s possible that if the level of equipment and functions fitted to cars continues to increase, car designers may have to place greater focus on ergonomics and function than on style.