Renault Group

The evolution of touch screens at Renault: an interactive history of ergonomics and design

3 July 2024
DesignInnovation & technology

Although touch screens are now almost ubiquitous in vehicles, they have not escaped the meteoric rise of digital technology. Size, orientation, ergonomics, design: they are constantly being reinvented, with designers guided not only by technological advances but also by the needs of users. The aim is to meet these needs and anticipate trends to create the right type of screen at the right time. That's why the evolution of touchscreens in the passenger compartment is, above all, a story in motion.

To find out more, we called on the expertise of Stéphane Maiore, Chief Interior Designer for the Renault brand, and Marc Pinel, Chief Advanced Experience Design at Renault Group.

Fasten your seatbelts and welcome aboard.


Integrated into the the dashboard of most modern vehicles, screens began to replace car radios in the early 2000s. Back then, they were operated “manually”, using a thumbwheel or joystick. Then, for better ergonomics and as technological advances allowed, these screens became touch sensitive.

Renault Clio III Phase 2, Carminat TomTom (2008)
The screen of the Carminat TomTom in-car navigation system on Clio III (2005-2012) was not touch-sensitive
Stéphane Maiore

Renault started developing touch screens around 2007, during the Clio IV design phase. At first, it was hard to convince the management to go tactile! Hence the redundancy with wheel control for a long time.

Stéphane Maiore
Chief Designer Intérieur Renault

Joystick at your fingertips

ZOE Phase 1, premier véhicule Renault équipé d’un écran tactile aux côtés de Clio IV (2014)
In 2012, ZOE was the first Renault vehicle to be equipped with a touchscreen, along with Clio IV

In 2013, Clio IV and ZOE, the first two Renault models to feature a central touchscreen, were launched. This screen enabled drivers to access the car's settings, radio and navigation centrally, at their fingertips.

Before a complete switch to touchscreens, the joystick that had previously been used to control the non-touchscreen central screens was improved in the same year with a multi-directional axis to facilitate navigation in the R-Link multimedia interface. This new feature was offered on Scenic XMOD and the erange, while a handrest was developed on Espace IV for easier use of the joystick and therefore the screen.

Espace V Phase 1, la molette permet de piloter le système Multi-sense (2014)
The joystick for controlling the screen has lasted for a few years, despite the switch to touch technology

Over the years, Renault has continued to develop the use of touchscreens in the interiors of its models, making them larger, more responsive, and more sophisticated.

Marc Pinel

The switch from joysticks to touchscreen quickly became a necessity, so that users could return to the habits they had already adopted with their phones or tablets.

Marc Pinel
Chief Advanced Experience Design

Touchscreens in the smartphone's footsteps

Like smartphones, touchscreens in vehicles have become more responsive over the years, correlated with an increase in the power of the processors and memory running the multimedia systems. The ecosystem has also progressed, with advanced functions such as smartphone connectivity and virtual assistants. Embedded applications have also multiplied, for an enriched and more personalized experience

Renault Captur Phase 2, écran radio (2019)
Over the years, new functions have emerged behind touch screens

In terms of form, 2014 marks a major change, at odds with the automotive standards of the time: the fifth-generation Renault Espace is equipped with a vertical - rather than horizontal touchscreen, again with the aim of offering users an experience like smartphone use. Thanks to connectivity, this screen provides access to weather forecasts, real-time traffic information and local search.

Espace V, premier véhicule Renault équipé d’un écran tactile verticale (2014)
Espace V is the first Renault vehicle to feature a vertical touchscreen in 2014

Stéphane Maiore takes us back to the first tests: “In 2010, we taped an IPad to the dashboard to see what a vertical format could do. We were the first to bring out screens in this format with such an orientation."

Marc Pinel adds that “the idea was to show the speed of interaction and the advantage of a vertical screen for viewing a map.”

This vertical positioning of the multimedia touchscreen is rapidly spreading through the range: Megane IV (2016), Koleos II (2017), Clio V (2019), Captur II (2019) are all equipped with it.

Clio V Phase 2 version esprit Alpine, planche de bord (2023)
Dashboard of Clio V Phase 2, Alpine spirit version (2023)

OpenR dual screen: climax of expertise

At the same time, designers were already thinking about the next move, given the speed at which digital trends were evolving. The two unavoidable trends of the time were the arrival of a second screen on the dashboard, facing the driver, and a demand for better, safer ergonomics.

This led to the development of a new form of screen, integrating both the dashboard screen and the multimedia display: the “all-in-one double screen” in the shape of an inverted L (“L-Shape”), tested on concept cars such as TreZor (2016), SYMBIOZ (2017) and MORPHOZ (2019).

In 2022, it will integrate a production model for the first time, in this case the Megane E-Tech Electric. Its name: OpenR. Its effect: striking!

Renault Megane E-Tech electric (bcb) Phase 1, double écran tactile OpenR Link (2021)
The double touchscreens OpenR Link born in 2021. It equips Megane E-Tech electric and other C-segment models later

Functionality, aesthetics and elegance were the three key words in the design of this OpenR screen: “With the OpenR screen, we wanted to centralize a single system in a single object. With a dedicated driving screen and a dedicated multimedia screen.” explains Marc Pinel.

Beyond the practical aspect, its design transcends the simple “utilitarian object” to become a true emotional expression. Every time the door opens, it's this screen that greets the eye: a constant reminder of the alliance between technology and aesthetics that defines the Renaulution era.

Scénic E-Tech Electric et son écran central OpenR Link (2023)
Scenic E-Tech Electric and his double touchscreens OpenR (2023)

OpenR Link, its operating system, is the fruit of this philosophy. By simplifying menus and screen navigation, it reduces the number of operations, offering instant access to essential functions. A major advance in automotive interior ergonomics, freeing the user from superfluous constraints.

The customer experience, a driving force for innovation

The real revolution with the new shape of the OpenR screen lies in understanding and considering users' habits and needs.

In this constant quest of innovation, a practical approach was adopted for this project: customer panels were mobilized to test prototypes quickly and regularly.

This approach enabled developments to be adjusted accordingly, as part of a continuous improvement process.

Marc Pinel reveals that, faced with the dilemma between the in-car system and their favorite mobile applications, many of the panel's test customers still preferred the comfort of their smartphone strapped to the dashboard. For OpenR, the solution was obvious: integrate these familiar applications into the car's ecosystem, offering a driving experience closer to our smartphones, and above all, imbued with confidence.

- Renault x Waze, système de navigation (2022)
Waze now fully integrated with OpenR Link multimedia system

To understand these needs, we need to immerse ourselves in the digital world, where trends evolve at dizzying speed, in contrast to the car's renewal cycle.

Between Clio IV and V, there were six generations of iPhone! reminds Stéphane Maiore, to help us understand this gap.   

What's the future for on-board touchscreens?

The upside-down double L-shaped OpenR screen, a symbol of innovation today, is not necessarily suited to all needs and vehicles. On the latest Renault 5 E-Tech electric, the on-board display and multimedia screen are positioned horizontally.

Why? To be coherent with the interior design, which features a completely horizontal dashboard, and of course for ergonomic reasons.

Le tableau de bord inédit de Renault Grand Koleos
The double horizontal screen from Renault 5 E-Tech electric is in symbiosis with the dashboard

The saying ‘all things come in threes’ takes on its full meaning when you discover the new three-screen panoramic display on the Renault Grand Koleos, a model recently unveiled on the Korean market. This touchscreen remains horizontal but extends all the way to the front passenger to fully integrate them into the on-board multimedia experience.

Le tableau de bord inédit de Renault Grand Koleos
The new dashboard of Renault Grand Koleos

"The screen can be a source of distraction, which is why its location is so important. That's why the next generation of displays will prioritize safety, so as to minimize discomfort in peripheral vision.", Marc Pinel.

For the future, the location of the touch screen is a key challenge. It requires constant adaptation of form, digital evolution, and user experience, in an optimal and secure way.

The future of our cockpits lies in a perpetual quest for innovation, adaptation, and safety, in the service of an ever more ergonomic, fluid, and intuitive driving experience. A critical analysis of our current concepts prompts us to look to the future with lucidity: perhaps one day, concealing screens will become necessary to reconcile accessibility and discretion.