VAN BUREN TOWNSHIP, MI – The common industry solution to developing vehicle-infotainment systems is “putting technology into the car for technology’s sake.” Visteon’s director of global innovation and design says.

But data gleaned from consumer workshops indicate many of today’s infotainment systems are just too complicated for the average user, Tim Yerdon claims.

“People are at their limits from a cognitive-load perspective on how much information they can process,” he tells WardsAuto, noting Visteon’s objective is to move away from pushing technology and toward designing the user experience.

With this in mind, the supplier is shopping several newly developed infotainment systems to its OEM customers. All are designed to be simple, personal and engaging, as well as safe, Yerdon says.

Visteon’s goal is to identify problems early in the design process that could lead to an overly complicated systems, he says. Once the product is launched, it generally can be fixed, “but it’s a lot more costly. So we tend to focus on what drives value upstream in the process.”

As a global company, Visteon also takes cultural differences into consideration when developing a new infotainment system. During a tour of the supplier’s headquarters here, Yerdon demonstrates various touchscreens for different markets.

The North American model features large text boxes with icons and bright colors, while the German version boasts a cleaner format with a carousel-type display that turns to show the various system functions.

For China, text is downplayed and icons appear larger. Chinese characters “might be written differently, depending on the region or the demographic,” Yerson says, because they may have a variety of meanings.

Indian drivers prefer vibrant colors and religious deities for icons in the display.

Because most of the regional changes are made via the use of software, adapting displays for different markets can be relatively low cost, Yerson says.

To overcome a common consumer complaint of overly complex infotainment systems without alienating those who crave the latest technology, Visteon has developed its “Personal Cockpit Concept” that offers three levels of use.

The beginner setting is for those who may not own a smartphone or tablet computer and aren’t comfortable interacting with touchscreen technology, says Michael Eichbrecht-innovation manager.

“The light user wants more physical buttons and knobs; more of a conventional vehicle interface,” he says. “They still want a nice screen but don’t want to worry about touching the screen.”

Moderate users are comfortable with technology but still want touchscreen controls that are clearly marked. Most still appreciate physical buttons and knobs for key functions, such as audio-system volume and climate control.

Advanced users own a Macbook Pro or an Android phone and want to customize their screens and add new widgets.

The multi-level touchscreen system can be switched easily to accommodate drivers with varied skills. This is useful at the dealership when a customer takes a vehicle for a test drive, Eichbrecht says. “The (dealer) could set it up for you so you don’t have to feel intimidated when you’re test-driving a vehicle.”

Visteon’s push to become a top developer of new infotainment systems comes as the supplier reportedly is seeking to sell its lighting unit to India’s Varroc Group. According to Bloomberg, the deal could be worth between $75 million and $100 million.

Varroc supplies parts for passenger and commercial vehicles and motorcycles. Top customers include Honda, Yamaha and Fiat. Visteon and Varroc have not commented on the reports.

bpope@wardsauto.com