At least thus far, GM has continued to eschew vertically-oriented infotainment screens for both its ICE-powered vehicles and its growing cache of EV models. The vertical implementation of center stack infotainment screens of the Ram 1500 and F-150 Lightning give us an opportunity to address the very design direction that started with Tesla cars.
When the current-gen Ram 1500 – a chief competitor to GM’s Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra – launched for the 2019 model year, it offered a large vertical 12-inch infotainment screen dominating the center stack and lighting up the automotive world.
At that time, various folks reviewed the truck and opined on the screen, with some liking it, while also taking issue with its vertical orientation. MacRumors writer Eric Slivka perhaps said it most eloquently: “I do also still have some concerns about the shift toward increasingly large touchscreens in vehicles, which can make it harder to make changes by feel and end up taking your eyes off the road for longer. A portrait display magnifies these issues by bringing significant portions of the display lower on the center stack and away from the driver’s line of sight. I would have appreciated it if the display could have been moved all the way to the top of the stack to minimize this issue as much as possible.”
Our thoughts exactly. By comparison, General Motors has elected to use a horizontal orientation of its screens, enabling drivers to quickly gather information via an “eye sweep” across the dash, reducing distractions by minimizing time away from watching the road. This horizontally-oriented approach makes even more sense when we consider that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto both display information in a horizontal rectangle format, and Tesla – known for its large, vertically-oriented screens, doesn’t support either of the two technologies.
Interestingly, Ram has announced that its Uconnect 5 infotainment system will allow Apple CarPlay to “occupy the entire space” of the pickup truck’s 12-inch vertical screen for the 2022 model year. That’s seems puzzling, as it brings a driver’s eyes down and away from the road, especially the recently-used app icons, which are small and near the bottom of the screen, making them difficult to find and tap. This new, one-off iteration seems like more of a concession for Ram to fill its (not ideally-oriented) vertical screen that it’s so proud of rather than honoring Apple’s stringent design ethos and declaration that “CarPlay is a smarter, safer way to use your iPhone while you drive.” But wait, there’s more.
The all-electric 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning – a rival to GM’s GMC Hummer EV Pickup and upcoming Silverado E – has followed Ram’s suit with a large, vertical center stack screen. Meanwhile, Tesla – the company that pioneered vertical screens with the debut of the Model S back in 2012 – has shifted to horizontal screens for all of its models. GM seems to agree with that direction, as it has continued to go horizontal, and in a big way – literally.
For example, the all-new 2021 Cadillac Escalade features an impressive, industry-first 38-inch curved screen that includes infotainment, a driver control panel, and the instrument cluster, all in a horizontally-oriented configuration.
The upcoming GMC Hummer EV Pickup and SUV will feature a 13.4-inch infotainment display and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster as standard. The horizontally-oriented infotainment screen is identical in both vehicles.
Similarly, the upcoming all-electric 2023 Cadillac Lyriq features an enormous 33-inch display, which – similar to the unit in the aforementioned 2021 Escalade – provides readouts for the instrumentation and infotainment, as well as various onboard controls, all in a – you guessed it – horizontally-oriented fashion.
The refreshed 2022 Silverado continues the horizontal trend, offering the same screens sizes of the GMC Hummer EV modes on mid- to high-end trim levels. That gives the refreshed 2022 Silverado 1500 one of the biggest infotainment touchscreens in its class at 13.4 inches. the center infotainment screen is complemented by a 12.3-inch, all-digital instrument cluster.
It even appears that the upcoming, all-electric Silverado E will have a huge, curved, horizontal screen similar to the units used in the Lyriq and Escalade. The new electric truck will be unveiled during the opening ceremony of the 2022 CES show via a keynote delivered by General Motors CEO Mary Barra on Wednesday, January 5th, 2022.
And, last but not least, there’s the refreshed 2022 GMC Sierra 1500. Like the 2022 Silverado 1500, it also gets a new, 13.4-inch center infotainment screen that is very much horizontally-oriented. Chalk one up for the wide screen camp.
GM’s approach also speaks to its desire to go way beyond screen size as a critical measure, and instead focus on how well the complete package of screen design works to fulfill the goal of quickly providing critical and important information and controls to drivers. The solution involves a large, fully configurable digital information cluster (digital gauge cluster) plus a large infotainment screen with a logical orientation, along with an intuitive user interface.
As GM puts it regarding the refreshed 2022 Silverado, “Silverado’s new infotainment screen is the centerpiece of the more intuitive technology and is paired with a new digital, configurable instrument cluster. Together, they provide customers with a bold, panoramic, and at-a-glance view of the important vehicle feature readouts and infotainment settings.
“The configurable cluster and infotainment display are designed to engage customers with new levels of personalization and intuitive interaction. It starts the moment the driver slides behind the wheel and the driver information center comes to life. The available Rear Camera Mirror and Head-Up Display take the total to four technologically advanced screens, each helping provide an engaging and comprehensive driving experience.”
So while the Ram and F-150 Lightning both offer large vertical screens, Chevy’s refreshed 2022 Silverado 1500 and 2022 Sierra 1500 deliver large screens that are elegantly integrated into the cockpit, delivering effortless scanning and control to the ever-increasing amounts of data and information available in a modern motorized vehicle.