About the project

Although most new vehicles now include touchscreens as an option, they do not tend to have full blown Windows or Android operating systems. For emergency services though, they require this functionality (known as a Mobile Data Terminal or ‘MDT’) for everything from command and control to number plate recognition.

This project involved designing a full new centre console interface for the Vauxhall Astra, allowing for a dockable tablet to be slid into place securely and connect to vehicle systems, whilst keeping all of the clean lines of the interior and all of the functionality you would usually expect from the vehicle.

The challenge

The new fascia needed to hold theĀ  computer in place whilst connecting to power and external peripherals such as cameras. It also needed to be as smooth an installation as possible, to minimise the time that the vehicle was off the road and out of service.

User Safety

All edges of the device that could fall into the head impact zone needed to be a high radius. The fascia needed to be anchored to survive a crash, and the shape needed to be smooth enough to stop interference with the vehicle’s existing airbag deployment.

User-centred design and functionality

The tablet needed to be able to be quickly and easily removed from the dashboard, but also possible to be locked in place if required. All of the switches that needed to be accessed quickly also needed to be integrated. All in an ergonomically and visually appealing manner.

The process

The first iteration design focused around keeping the original vehicle fascia and building onto it. This would involve the tablet pivoting forward to be removed, similar to a cassette player. After sketching, prototyping and trialling this concept though, there were issues around the ergonomics for the user, as well as ease of installation.

After a lot of further design work, a concept was reached where the top half of the fascia would be replaced. This was designed to include everything from the tetra radio head to the blue light switches, all smoothly built into one dashboard.

The solution

The final design consisted of a new top fascia for the vehicle, which maintained the same aesthetic lines of the interior, whilst adding the touchscreen interface. This design kept the original air vents, and also allowed for a din radio slot, vehicle control switches and release mechanisms for the tablet. The solution also integrated the blue light control switches into the bottom to further remove any ‘add-ons’ to the dashboard. This bottom section included outward facing usb ports to connect to the computer system.

The end result, whilst being simple in terms of looks, was both cost effective when compared to competitor solutions, and also reduced the fitting time from approximately 2 days per vehicle to several hours.

8 inch tablet interface
Vehicle lock / hazard warning light controls
Traction control switches
TETRA radio / standard vehicle DIN size radio head
New fascia piece
Bottom half of original vehicle fascia