Advanced technology has a natural, human feel in the new Volvo XC60. Volvo Cars experts explain the science behind making things simple

Words: Leo Wilkinson

“What can we do to make things easier? That’s what we ask ourselves,” says Johannes Hedberg, an interaction designer at Volvo Cars. 

Johannes is talking about the company’s philosophy on technology. He is responsible for the handwriting function in the new Volvo XC60. This feature allows you to write messages, search for contacts, enter destinations and find a favourite song simply by writing letters – or whole words – on the centre touch screen with your finger. It even works if you’re wearing gloves. 

Johannes’ background is in cognitive science – a broad area that covers how the human mind works and how we interact with the world around us. This deep understanding of how people function is the starting point for creating technology with a human, natural feel. 

That is the aim of Sensus – the Volvo Cars innovations that connect you, your Volvo and the world around you. In the Volvo XC60, Sensus makes those connections easier than ever.

Naturally easy

With a PhD in physics and a career spent studying liquid crystal display (LCD) technology, Dr David Hermann is well placed to ensure that the screen is easy to use, whatever the conditions. Dr Hermann, who is Technical Expert, Visual Performance and Display Technology at Volvo Cars, helped develop the centre display with touch screen. 

“We did a lot of work to make sure that it’s readable in strong sunlight,” David says. “The matt finish on some touch screens creates a large area of reflected, diffused light, but the high-gloss, ultra-low-reflectivity surface we use avoids this and gives a sharper overall image. It’s a simple, stylish solution, inspired by smartphones.” 

Sensus Navigation is Volvo Cars’ fully-integrated, connected navigation technology. It makes the most of the centre display with the touch screen’s portrait format, displaying more of the road you’re travelling on than a landscape display would. 

It also comes with free over-the-air updates, which means the latest map information is sent directly to the car, so you don’t have to worry about finding it or downloading it.

The power of speech

Voice control is another example of uncomplicated interaction in the Volvo XC60. It allows you to operate climate control, navigation, media and telephone features just by speaking. Jenny Wilkie, a speech expert for Volvo Cars with a PhD in dialogue engineering, helped fine-tune the technology. Her job is to make sure that the car understands you, whatever your language or accent. 

“You don’t have to speak slowly for our voice control function. Normal speed works best,” she says. “And getting your message across is easy because the car understands more than just set commands.” You can even use alternative names for your favourite music artists. “Instead of Bruce Springsteen you can say ‘The Boss’, for example,” Jenny says. 

Being able to talk to the car in a similar way that you would to a person makes voice control more useful and intuitive, Jenny explains. “It’s easy and natural. That’s how technology should be.”

Explore Volvo XC60