Hyundai, in pursuit of making cars more “perfectly intuitive and user-friendly,” has released a working prototype of its virtual cockpit, featuring two huge display screens instead of physical hard buttons. The idea is to make the cockpit easily customisable for users, and no, it’s not an April Fool’s joke.

The two rectangular screens are configurable to meet the needs of every driver. Also, they feature haptic feedback, with two actuator modules underneath the surface that allow for stronger and more consistent feedback. The steering wheel has been fitted to an i30 test car, and Hyundai’s case is that “innovations are not limited to higher-segment cars.”

Depending on what’s shown on the instrument panel, the steering wheel displays also adapt and change depending on the driving situation. Users are able to customise the settings with up to five buttons per display, much like a smartphone.

Speaking of instrument cluster, the fully digital display has been changed to a multi-layer display (MLD), in that it features two separate displays that are stacked six millimetres from each other. This allows visual 3D effects: one part of the graphic is shown on the front display, and the other part on the rear display. When they overlap, the impression of an object in space is created, and Hyundai claims that this is less distracting for the driver. Only the most relevant information is displayed, such as speed limit.

To put the technologies to the test, Hyundai conducted a driver distraction study with the Würzburg Institute for Traffic Science (WIVW) to evaluate the new cockpit’s usability while driving. For all cases, Hyundai claims that the study clearly shows Hyundai’s new cockpit is significantly below the limits of the globally acknowledged motor vehicle safety associations AAM and NHTSA.

For the more complex use cases, all individuals tested indicated only a slight distraction, which was perceived by them as noticeable but not as strenuous or interfering with the driving task. Also, the participants praised the cockpit’s attractive design, the visual and haptic feedback, and the intuitive structure of the prototype.

At this point, Hyundai is still in the early prototype phase of the new virtual cockpit, but it notes that it’s an important milestone for the brand. It’s unclear if Hyundai will deploy this virtual cockpit into future cars, but if all goes well, it just might. Do you like what you see?