2020 Ford Explorer has a 'Calm Screen' to relax drivers
28 March 2019 - Autoblog
We like the idea of cars that soothe, but this could go further
In a world of endless notifications on phones and constant communication over screens, people are increasingly desperate for a reprieve. Ford is hoping to offer one to buyers of the 2020 Ford Explorer with a new "Calm Screen" mode on the three-row crossover's instrument panel display.
When a driver just needs some calm and quiet, select the "Calm Screen" setting and most of the information that's usually displayed in the main portion of the screen vanishes. The only gauges remaining are the speedometer and the fuel gauge. The screen also turns a soft blue, a color scheme Ford specifically chose because it's read by the brain as "soothing and tranquil."
We like the idea of "Calm Screen", but we wish Ford would carry the idea to its obvious conclusion. There's still trip information displayed on the screen, like temperature, compass direction, and trip odometer – things that aren't strictly necessary. Perhaps Calm Screen could pare this down further, to only display range and gear selection.
The calming atmosphere shouldn't stop at the instrument cluster either. Ford could take inspiration from the ultimate version of this idea, the old Saab "Night Panel" button that would shut off every interior light except the speedometer one. It could even have a motion sensor to automatically bring up the lights when a hand approaches the center stack so that you can still find controls as needed. This would be really easy to implement, as Volkswagen already has a sensor to bring up larger icons on screen when hands approach, and BMW has sensors that can even track motion for gesture controls, so a simple light dimmer would be easy. There could even be the option to have soothing ambient lighting if it isn't too distracting, as Mercedes does with the "Energizing Comfort" modes in some of its models, though that system offers settings for moods besides just "calm."
It should also silence any notifications or calls coming from your connected cell phone, and lower the volume of any beeps or clicks from the user interface. Nissan developed a prototype armrest compartment that could block cell signals that could provide a model for Ford. Vehicle device maker Scosche also had a device that would plug into the OBD port for disabling phone connections. But an expanded calm mode would make disabling and enabling the phone simpler.
Implementing all of these features, and some that we probably haven't thought of, would create a truly relaxing environment, rather than one simple screen. Still, Ford's new screen setting is a step in the right direction, so credit where credit's due.