Speedometer Design

Does it Affects How the Driver Handle their Car?

This site has compiled a list of speedometer design from Chevrolet, 1941 – 2011. It is quite interesting to see how the design has evolved over time to something that look like a stop watch. Trend could be one of the factors that affects how the design would turn out, but I am more keen to find out if the design of the speedometer affects how the drivers handle their car.

Here are some of the findings.

Why do car speedometer go so high?

I noticed that my minivan’s speedometer goes to 160 mph….That means that over a third of the speedometer is almost completely superfluous…. (1) Car companies have figured out that people want to see high numbers on them because it suggests a powerful engine, so they exaggerate the figures a bit for marketing, or (2) seeing the needle at 70 mph right near the middle of the dial is better for attention to the road or psychological justification of cruising speed or something.

there are driving conditions that you might not be expecting….

Why you may drive fast

If the driver of an SUV thinks they are going 40 MPH and they are actually moving at 46 MPH – life will get exciting quickly…..The solution seems to be simple – frequently glance at your speedometer.

Traffic and Transportation Psychology, a book that gives an overview of the trends in Traffic and Transport Psychology, has done a experiment on how the design of the speedometer affects the driving experience.(pg 314). Below is their findings.

Digital displays were usually responded to quickly when the task is to read a value and make a decision base on it, but they are less effective when the task is to examine their sensitivity by how well speed changes can be detected…

keeping displays as simple as possible…. speedometer with low or a medium (visual) complexity were responded to quicker when compared one with high (visual) complexity…

circular speedometers performed better than the horizontal ones. They were responded to quicker for both tasks employed. (reading the value quickly and detect how well speed changes)


If the design of the speedometer can affect how a person drives and reacts, can it apply to sport training devices (eg, track mill, nike plus)?

So that we can run harder, better and faster.