October 2011

Feedback Helps Steer the Ford Focus Electric Interface

As Ford engineers put the finishing touches on the MyFord Touch interface for the all-new Focus Electric, they’ve turned to consumers for feedback. The Ford Focus Electric Simulator takes users on an 11-mile trip through different types of terrain, allowing participants several opportunities to get familiar with the interface’s gauges, graphics and more. So far, the feedback has significantly helped Ford improve its innovative new technology.
 
When consumers sit behind the wheel of the simulator, they see the identical designs and tools that are in the Ford Focus Electric. Two 4.2-inch full-color LCD screens provide details regarding battery charge, distance to charge point, corresponding energy budget and expected range surplus. These features are intended to help drivers optimize mileage and experience the freedom of fuel-free driving. As Human Machine Interface (HMI) engineer Paul Aldighieri explains, “These screens are an integral part of Focus Electric and we thought the best way to make sure they would do their job is to have people come in and try them out for themselves.”
 
Since 2010, the simulator has taken about 30 drivers on a ride through hills, city streets and country roads. Later, the drivers were evaluated on how well they understood gauge concepts and design. While users expressed high overall satisfaction with the system, there were some areas that required improvement. The original Brake Coach, for example, showed the absolute amount of energy that was captured and sent back to the battery, as well as energy lost due to friction. Simulator drivers felt that this was too complex, and the resulting feedback has since helped engineers redesign and simplify this feature. Participants even had a hand in naming MyFord Touch tools by offering ideas for user-friendly terminology. Electric vehicle enthusiasts from the Michigan Electric Auto Association were also invited to experience the simulator.
 
One major change to the interface involved a circuit board graphic that was used to represent additional range beyond a charge destination. Simulator users felt the graphic was cold and unexciting. Using this feedback, Ford artists and engineers switched the circuit board to a butterfly, creating a friendlier, more attractive theme.
 
The new Focus isn’t the only Ford to boast electric capabilities. The automaker plans to launch five electrified vehicles in North America by 2012 and in Europe by 2013. The Transit Connect Electric small commercial van debuted in 2010, and the Ford Focus Electric will be formally introduced in late 2011. In 2012, look for the new C-MAX Hybrid, a second-generation lithium-ion battery hybrid, in North America.
 
Explore the Focus Electric at www.ford.com.