Mazda’s Heads-up Cockpit Concept vol.01

Mazda’s Heads-up
Cockpit Concept Vol.01

Achieving safe driving  by 21st Century instrument panel design

Taro Oike
Integrated Control System Development Division

Due to technological advancement, drivers have begun to seek and access increased amount of information in their vehicles. To keep up with the current trend, Mazda came up with a unique Heads-up Cockpit concept that puts the driver’s safety first, at the same time helping the driver manage various information without losing focus on driving. The concept is applied to ongoing development of Mazda’s new-generation human machine interface (HMI). We listened to Taro Oike, a development leader with Mazda’s Integrated Control System Development Division, who told us what Mazda’s human-centric new-generation cockpit looks like.

Creating a new cockpit for the 21st century.

In recent time, the once simple car ‘cockpit’ has received an audio system, a car navigation system and now a “connected car” concept, which has brought great varieties of information to the driver while seated in their car. Access to connected information has improved comfort and convenience for the driver, but it also means that the modern-day driver faces more risks of being distracted whilst driving.

“We decided to re-design the HMI to address this emerging issue”, says Oike. “HMI, simply put, is a device that connects people with machine, and for automobile it means switches, gauges and displays. Given that a driver accesses and manages loads of information while driving, we did a complete re-inspection on how HMI should be in the 21st century.”

Creating a new cockpit for the 21st century.

Reducing three driver distractions by using a human-centric approach.

“The driver was the golden standard of our re-inspection work”, continues Oike. “We asked a question – what’s the proper environment for a driver to handle and manage information while driving? We thought hard about it, and found an issue called three driver distractions.” Oike says that a driver distraction refers to a state where there is less focus on driving and the mind starts to wander. Oike and his team inspected potential causes, and used the findings and learnings to formulate ideas and develop technologies for minimizing distractions. Those ideas and technologies are applied to Mazda’s HMI and creation of a new cockpit.

According to Oike, the three driver distractions are (1) driver’s cognitive distraction from the road ahead, (2) driver takes their eyes off the road ahead, and (3) driver takes their hands off the steering wheel. We asked him to comment on how he goes about reducing lack of driver’s attention in those 3 scenarios.

Updating layout to prevent “taking mind off” the road.

Updating layout to prevent “taking mind off” the road.

The first driver distraction is cognitive distraction from the road ahead. “I call it taking your mind off the road. If you look at something, and you notice something else in the foreground, your natural reaction is to look at the thing closer to you. It’s caused by a shorter distance. Similarly you cannot help but look at something that causes strong stimulus or something that interests you. Our first approach was to identify causes, and then categorize information and create a zoned layout.”

“To be more specific, driving information is laid out to allow a driver to minimize their eye movements. Information categorized under comfort and convenience is consolidated on a center display mounted on a dashboard. We clearly separated information that is essential to driving from those that are not, to prevent cognitive distraction.

Minimizing visual diversion by updating displays

The second distraction is taking eyes off the road ahead “because the driver needs to various displays in the cockpit, I’d say it’s a visual diversion. It happens in 3 stages. One, your eyes move away from the road ahead, two, your eyes focus on display, and three, you read what’s on display. Our second approach is minimizing the time required to do that”, says Oike.

“To reduce the time required to view display, the center display was moved as high as possible, so that it does not block the driver’s view. In all the new-generation products since the Mazda3 launched in 2013, downward eye movement has been minimized to a 15-degree angle.”

Minimizing visual diversion by updating displays.1

Minimizing visual diversion by updating displays.2

“Active Driving Display was developed to reduce the time required for eye focus adjustment. It’s a new HMI using a small display placed within the driver’s effective field of view so that they can keep their eyes on the road ahead while checking driving information.   The driving information is projected at around 1.5 meters ahead of the driver as a virtual image, which minimizes time taken for eye focusing.”

“To reduce time taken for reading information on the display, letter size and space between the lines were determined to ensure legibility, based on the distance between driver and center display. Then the display size for showing the information that is perfectly legible to the driver was decided. The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two, a well known study in psychology, was applied to a set number of items visible on the screen at once is on the display is recognized at a glance.”

Minimizing visual diversion by updating displays.3


  • Visibility developed at Mazda is based on extensive studies of driver’s physical characteristics.
  • For Mazda, ideal driving starts with an optimal driving position.