Large dashboard displays have become synonymous with electric vehicles. We spoke with Bill Thompson, the senior design manager for UI at General Motors, about how the Cadillac Lyriq’s display will signal how the company handles digital dashboards for all its upcoming EVs. GM shared the first photo of the Lyriq’s screen, revealing a single 33-inch piece of curved glass in front of the driver.

The main message? Size matters. Thompson said:

The size of the Cadillac Lyriq display is a huge differentiator for us. The form factor is going to be very industry-leading. The huge 33-inch display is a very big differentiator for us, even among the other brands in our portfolio.

All this information and all this intelligence will get passed down to the rest of the company. It’s the platform itself that is all new.

Thompson explained that while the screen is one long piece of curved glass, it will be divided into three distinct zones. The display is five inches tall.

The zone to the left of the steering wheel will control interior features such as lighting and the heads-up display. It will flow into the region behind the steering wheel. That’s where you’ll find a traditional (digital) instrument cluster. And the screen will seamlessly continue to the center stack for navigation, cabin, and infotainment features.

Nonetheless, the Lyriq’s screen has the capability to do a full-screen takeover. In other words, when the vehicle is stopped, charging, or for other discrete functions, the entire piece of glass could be integrated into a single presentation. The Lyriq is the first GM vehicle to use a single piece of glass that’s nearly 3 feet wide.

The first image shared with Electrek gives a hint of how it could be used for EV navigation. The left side offers a chance to add a charging stop, with range and speedometer info in the middle, and turn-by-turn navigation on the right. The zones blend into one another.

Click on the image for a large version:

Thompson admitted that the approach was “derivative” of what’s already announced for the 2021 Cadillac Escalade. That’s a point of pride. Here’s the 2021 Escalade’s digital interface, which uses two overlapped pieces of display hardware.

Thompson believes the EV market has evolved to where the electric-ness doesn’t need to be emphasized.

Historically, when it came to an electric vehicle, the vehicle was electric first. The market has matured. With Cadillac Lyriq, it’s a Cadillac first, and it is meant to be a luxurious very high end-user experience.

We’ve built into the user interface to allow the customer to choose how much electrification information they want to have available to them at any given time.

The two zones on the outside will be touch-controlled, while drivers will use a rotary control for the instrument cluster in the middle. Thompson said the display is “brought higher up in the in the sightline.”

The Cadillac Lyriq luxury SUV launches in China in 2021 and in North America in 2022. There will be virtual launch of the Lyriq on August 6.

GM’s restraint from using the large screen to cinematic effect extends to the start-up welcome sequence. So while GM could have taken over the entire 33-inch landscape with some Byton-esque razzle-dazzle, the Lyriq will be more modest.

A lot of times, when you get in these vehicles, there’s a lot of pomp and circumstance with things like welcome animations, and things like that that aren’t necessarily rooted in the customer need.

When you’re welcomed into the Lyriq, having this large display once it recognizes you and invites you in, it tells you pertinent details of your trip, calendar events that you have coming up, and lets you know your range.

Instead of having the user go search for those kinds of things on their own, they’re presented to you in a very comforting way.

Fair enough, but there is nothing especially EV about it. I suppose that’s part of the point as well. That said, Thompson pointed to so-called intelligent routing tied to the remaining range. He said that range anxiety was less of an issue these days compared to previous years. However, he said the UI would “integrate those kinds of peace-of-mind features.” Moreover, he emphasized that Cadillac had made a great effort to “distill that information, so customers don’t have to go fishing for it.”

This is a detail of the Lyriq’s screen from the single teaser image:

Thompson explained that the company had also evolved its thinking about presenting information about Super Cruise, it’s hands-off, self-driving feature. Cadillac will continue to use a brightly lit color-coded bar on top of the steering wheel to denote the assist level and readiness of Super Cruise. But now it can use the monster screen as well.

When these alerts pop up, what your instructions are, whether you have to take over the wheel or override controls, or whatever the case may be, the messaging in terms of the language is very human and very clear. It feels less engineered and more human-centered, leveraging that large display in front of you.

The cluster for Lyriq is going to provide you a much more human-centered message as well as a larger graphic that illustrates the conditions of the vehicle you’re trying to meet.

He didn’t provide more details about the iconography. But he said that it would be “more human-sounding.” In the previous version, the text might have read, “Take over steering wheel now!” With the Lyriq (and future models), the language would be friendlier such as: “It’s time to take over the steering wheel.” That doesn’t sound like much of a difference. But to be fair, I think it needs to be seen with the icons in a driving context.

Thompson is in charge of UI for all GM vehicles. And the Lyriq is the first of a wave of new EVs to get introduced. So his team is using the large screen to establish its approach for all those upcoming EVs. He said the Lyriq’s approach would “get cascaded and inform other brands.”

I asked how the GMC Hummer EV’s screen would be different. He replied:

The Hummer’s display form factor, the location, the placement of those things, the overall interior design, and sculpture of all of those interiors are going to be drastically different. They’ll have different DNA.

The Cadillac brand DNA is very evident in the Lyriq interior. The display for Hummer is a very different thing.

Beyond that, GM said we would have to wait for Hummer to reveal its spin on digital screens later this year.

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