Instrument cluster upgrade reporter
instrument cluster in car

GM CUE instrument cluster in car 

The Slickest Thing At The Detroit Auto Show (So Far) – Forbes

 

This is the story about the instrument cluster upgrade at the DAS: Last night I got my first taste of Detroit glam thanks to GM and our longtime Detroit bureau chief, Joann Muller. By her reckoning, this is her 19th Detroit auto show, and she has done a ton of in-depth reporting on the city itself, including a cover story last year, so she’s a wonderful guide.

She took me on a tour of downtown Detroit; her adopted hometown on the way out to the old GM headquarters, now home (at least in part) to The College for Creative Studies, a design school. Along the way, she pointed out the highlights, which, honestly, are pretty slim in a city as ravaged by a decline as Detroit is. But they are there; a new housing complex, The People Mover, the growing medical complex, Techtown, free ice skating. There are still ten vacant storefronts for every highlight, but it is still far from the demilitarized zone we hear so much about (At least downtown, at least during the auto show).

Anyway, setting the unveiling of their newest Cadillac, the BMW-busting (at least they hope so) ATS at the college was all part of the company’s drive to be seen. Honestly, to be, a less fusty, more innovative, and dare we say it, youthful company.

Instrument cluster upgrade

And while the press’ reception for the ATS was okay (“It looks like a Cadillac,” one longtime reviewer said with a shrug when the cover came off before he scrambled into the press scrum onstage), what was impressive as hell, at least to me, was the ATS instrumentation package, dubbed “CUE” (instrument cluster upgrade).

Here, GM has succeeded in bringing something to market that is pretty damn slick if they are looking to look and be more youthful; this helps tons.

So what is it? It’s iPad/ Android functionality for your car. And while that’s going to scare the bejesus out of car safety people already terrified of texting behind the wheel, it will, as it seeps through GM’s product line and matures, potentially revolutionize cars.

What it allows, for the first time (for real), is the chance to begin customizing your car’s inner workings on the fly. And that will prove as irresistible, if not more so, in that most personal of devices (your automobile) as it did your home computer and Cell phone.

Auto Panel for display

The system revolves around a center column display auto panel. Sound familiar? But unlike BMW’s painfully multi-layered and challenging iDrive, this is quick, intuitive, and based on touch-screens. You can sync your phone here, slide apps around, pop Pandora to the fore, etc. Most of the stuff you’re used to doing now is on your tablet or phone. Then you can toggle through most of this stuff using controls on the steering wheel, raising the volume, making calls, that kind of thing.

But what’s cool is that you can do more than customize this center panel, which is essentially a landlocked tablet above your heating buttons. You can also slide those functions onto a screen behind the steering wheel. You know, where your gauges typically live.

Although analog lovers will despise it, there are no gauges here. Nor is there a lame Knight-Rider bar of lights to signal your speed. Here is a blank slate that you can remake and a variety of layouts. What you want to look at, as you want to look at it. It’s a great idea, the centerpiece of personal computers since 1985 or so, and it works great here.

I hope they keep going. If GM is smart, they’ll go further, maybe enlist some of those kids at the College for Design Studies to help come up with car-specific apps down the road. Apps that retool performance? Give you better mileage? Point out historical sites based on GPS data? Or maybe that will give you an audio tour of a town by a local, so anyone could get a chance to hear about a city the way I got to from Joann as we tooled around town last night? What about Angry Driving Birds?

Who knows. The point is that this could be the beginning of a driving experience limited not by carmakers but by the imagination of drivers and the programming community. Here’s hoping CUE instrument cluster display starts a whole new relationship with that most personal of personal technology devices — your car.