‘Piss-off factor’: How one brand is saving buyers from touchscreen frustration

Anyone who’s driven a modern car knows the feeling. You want to adjust the temperature, or flick on the demister, or do something as simple as adjusting the volume… but it’s buried somewhere in a touchscreen.

Aston Martin has a new test designed to save its owners from that feeling, and it’s called the “piss-off factor”.

“We’re a brand that has come from a world of tactility; sensory interface,” Aston Martin director of design Miles Nurnburger told CarExpert.

“The big thing for us is to understand how we layer technology into [a cabin], and we were looking at the likes of Tesla who have been pioneers. We looked at them and very openly, when we first looked at it, said ‘that’s not us’.

“But, we all have [a phone] in our pocket. We all love them, they’re brilliant, we’re addicted to them. How do the two worlds come together?

The solution? A small group of people “went and drove cars”, used those experiences to build a list of key functions, then worked out how they felt if they weren’t “immediately” available.

The resulting metric they called “the piss-off factor”.

Initially, a small group was involved in testing; once they’d collated their thoughts it was shared with a broader team within Aston Martin, and with the outside world.

Mr Nurnburger says the seat controls in the Vantage as an example of the metric in action – killing them would’ve cut weight and created a cleaner design, but some drivers told Aston they adjust their driving position on the move based on whether they’re cruising, or whether they’re going hard.

Moving them to the touchscreen would’ve made that harder, invoking the “piss-off factor”. That’s why the new Vantage has physical seat controls – likewise a volume knob, and proper dials for temperature and fan speed.

“That’s the thing about the piss-off factor. When you want it, you want it instantly,” Mr Nurnburger said.

“If you want to turn the volume up and down, temperature absolutely – the minute you’ve got to go into a screen and tap for temperature, you’ve lost the customer. You’ve lost the experience.

“What’s happened in the last five years, is we’ve actually started designing the experience for the user, for the customer. In the past that wasn’t the case, we put buttons in a car because it needed the button.”

Smarter ergonomics and more usable, modern technology are part of a renewed focus at Aston Martin on interior design.

Mr Nurnburger told media the amount of people working on cabins at the brand has swollen from five to around 20 since Lawrence Stroll took the reins.

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