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The Expeditionís Difficult Dash

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naperlou
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Blogger
The mystery of auto control placement
naperlou   9/26/2012 10:52:27 AM
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Ralph, the placement of controls on automobile dashboards is often a mystery.  Between my brother, our friends and myself we had a number of 1960s sports cars.  They were fun!  They were also strange in their design in some ways.  My brother had a 1968 Tirumph GT-6 (come to think of it, he still has that car).  Just about everything was controlled by a long row of switches on the beautiful wood dash.  These we a type of rocker switch.  The problem with these was that they all were the same and over time the white painted symbology would wear off.  You just had to know.

Now, your Expedition is quiate a lot newer.  Yet, you report many of the same types of pacement problems I have seen over years.  I guess the design of the dash is done last and that aesthetics trumps usability in many cases. 

Nancy Golden
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Platinum
Re: The mystery of auto control placement
Nancy Golden   9/26/2012 12:29:35 PM
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naperlou - that had to know can be really frustrating! I pulled into a Sonic the other day to pick up some lunch and when I swiped my credit card it asked for my zip code as usual. The trouble was - the numbers had all been worn off the key pad. I managed on the second attempt to get all the right keystrokes but not being able to see the numbers made it a lot more difficult than it needed to be...I can't imagine having to deal with that on a car dash!

Regarding the placement of similar switches that played very different roles, it surprises me that these aren't thought out better. I used to work on test sets that would be sent to our production facility in Mexico and a great deal of thought was given to the placement and type of every push button and every switch in an attempt to prevent problems such as what the author is describing. Turning on one function when you meant to turn on another is generally not a good thing and at worst - can be dangerous.

akwaman
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Gold
Re: The mystery of auto control placement
akwaman   9/26/2012 3:05:52 PM
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This has always been a mystery to me.  I rented a car that had no power windows, and when I went to roll down the window, I could only turn the knob halfway, and then I had to reposition my hand for the other half, and after 10 iterations, the window was down.  It is beyond me how anyone could approve that design.  Maybe if you are an engineer responsible for the design of user interface controls, you should be forced to use the prototype back and forth to work everyday for at least a month before final approval is done.  Probably too much to ask, but... how do some of these things get through?  Definitely a mystery.

wbswenberg
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Gold
Using the equipment
wbswenberg   10/1/2012 10:46:17 AM
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People that order buses and office furniture should have to live on the bus and work with the office furniture.  The they would not buy the crap that we have to commute in and work at.  Thank goodness I have reduced my commute to 12 miles and 45 min @ 5am from 2 hours and 40 miles at 3am. 

We have an infinitely adjustable computer work top next to a finitly adjustable table top.  I adjusted the computer to the neatest table setting.  The there are two pairs of legs to interfer with the five leged swivl chain.  The chair has lots of adjustment except seat pan. 

We use to seat on the desk to visit.  Now if we do that the desk tips.  We have wheeled file cabints to sit on.  Wouldn't want to lean back into space.


New catagory: ordered by monkeys!

OLD_CURMUDGEON
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Platinum
DASHBOARD DESIGN
OLD_CURMUDGEON   9/27/2012 10:25:53 AM
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Regarding the fuel gauge ..... Over the course of a half century of driving, I've come to IGNORE this lack of foresight on the part of the designers.  Too many vehicles that I've owned, regardless of manufacture, have at least one gauge/readout that from my vantage point is concealed.  Maybe the solution IS coming to fruition now that Gov. "Moonbeam" IN California has signed legislation allowing for unpiloted vehicles on city streets there.

IF one thinks back, MOST (IF NOT ALL?) vehicles have a standardized dashboard layout at the core.  The Lights switch was all the way to the left.  The ignition switch to the right.  Now, of course, with the introduction of controls on the steering wheel column, some of these functions have been moved, but most of them still are represented in similar locations.  And, since the homogenization of vehicles has occurred with the "world car" concept, the designers are faced with a much larger scope of accepted standards.  Unfortunately, I think it is the user's responsibility to adapt, as much as it galls me to say that!!!

bob from maine
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Platinum
Re: DASHBOARD DESIGN
bob from maine   9/27/2012 1:39:02 PM
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I think dashboards are quite will thought-out. Not for the user, but for the comfort you develop after years of use. The intent is to keep the flavor of the dash controls fairly consistent within a single brand. Ford (before steering wheel interlocks) had the ignition key on the left, GM on the right. Dodge pick-ups had the wiper controls in the same place on the dash for years until they put them on the steering column. Mercedes puts the turn signal stalk at the 8 oclock position, not 9 like most cars. Once you get used to "your car", test driving another marque is by design, supposed to be uncomfortable. I plowed snow for 12 years with a Dodge pick-up, when I changed to a Chevy I actually broke the light switch and the turn-signal stalk reaching for the wiper switch. The gear shift was in a different place and the brake pedal was also offset about 2" to the left. Manufacturers want you to be comfortable with their marque and uncomfortable in any other.

OLD_CURMUDGEON
User Rank
Platinum
Re: DASHBOARD DESIGN
OLD_CURMUDGEON   9/27/2012 2:50:23 PM
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..... And, don't forget the CHRYSLER CORP. cars w/ the PUSHBUTTON controls for PRNDL for their TORQUEFLITE transmissions on the left side of the dashboard.  But, that's going back to the '50s & '60s.  We had several FOMOCO products, and I DON'T remember the ignition switch being on the LEFT side of the steering wheel.  I DO remember the Light Switch, Wiper Switch, Outside Air dam controls, and of course the cigarette lighter & Radio Controls.....

 

bob from maine
User Rank
Platinum
Re: DASHBOARD DESIGN
bob from maine   9/27/2012 3:30:13 PM
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I had several 50's and 60's Fords with the ignition on the dash on the left of the wheel. My 61 Olds had the key on the right with the famous Acc//Lock/Off/On/Start and the bezel with a tab (you could remove the ignition key with the switch in the "on or off" positon) so you could turn the switch from Off to On and Start without the key. Of course my Jeeps had the key in the dash next to the speedo which sat right in the middle so it could be left or right hand drive. Saab had the ignition key on the floor! Cadillac didn't have an e-brake release, the brake released when the gear selector was moved out of the Park positon (usually!). Ford for years had positive ground electrical systems and left hand threads on the left (or right) side wheels. Automotive engineers have made careers of making their cars 'different' but the same. I once spoke with a Chrysler engineer whose job was to sit-in and drive Chrysler luxury cars and assess the overall experience and determine if it was "Chrysler" enough. 

OLD_CURMUDGEON
User Rank
Platinum
Re: DASHBOARD DESIGN
OLD_CURMUDGEON   9/27/2012 3:45:44 PM
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Well, I guess after all these years I've forgotten where the key was on our Fords.  My father had a series of them, and when it was my turn to buy, I did the same throughout the 50s decade & 60s.  The first FORD vehicle I owned with the key on the column was a 1970 MUSTANG, (or maybe it was the '69 GALAXIE 500?).  After that it has been a series of DATSUNs, TOYOTAs, NISSANs, BRONCO II's, WINDSTARs, & more TOYOTAs.  Oh, yeah, and a German FORD ( 1960 TAUNUS 17M model)

Kirk McLoren
User Rank
Silver
Re: DASHBOARD DESIGN
Kirk McLoren   9/27/2012 3:39:05 PM
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I remember those pushbutton trannies and I remember thr tv ads showing them hitting R at 35 mph. Car spun out and tranny withstood it. They demoed they built it strong enough for 35 certainly but for higher speeds? There was the story about this person that was very proud of his new car (and its warranty) and he decided to drag race. He is describing this whilst talking to the parts manager - well I drops it into L for lunge and then I drops it into D for drag and he is still pullin me so I drops it into R for race and now I needs me some new parts. Thats how it was told to me.

OLD_CURMUDGEON
User Rank
Platinum
Re: DASHBOARD DESIGN
OLD_CURMUDGEON   9/27/2012 3:51:38 PM
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EVERY streetracer in the country wanted the TORQUEFLITE tranny.  They used to say they were designed for the PATTON Tank.  I suspect they were partially correct.  You could buy a PLYMOUTH 426 HEMI coupled to the TORQUEFLITE & ruin a set of GOODYEAR raised white letter tires in one afternoon. 

Of course, CHEVROLET countered w/ their "beefed-up" POWERGLIDE .... what a joke. 

And, FORD had the CS6 & FMX transmissions coupled to their 390, 406, 427, 428 & 429 (Shotgun motor). 

Tool_maker
User Rank
Platinum
Re: DASHBOARD DESIGN
Tool_maker   9/28/2012 5:24:15 PM
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  My 56 Chrysler had the two-speed Power flight that preceeded the three speed Torgue Flight. There was virtually no slippage and all of the buttons were in a little cube on the side of the steering column. I never had the nerve to try that R thing at speed.

Unkle Tony
User Rank
Iron
Re: DASHBOARD DESIGN
Unkle Tony   12/15/2012 9:09:40 AM
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I remember the "PBA" or push button auto setup because as a kid I decided to see what happened if the buttons were pulled out. A mechanic had to come to the parking lot and repair the car before we could go home. (Not that I was looking forward to getting home and facing my punishment...)

But my modern day peeve is the location of the wiper control stalk on my loveable and rugged '98 Chevy Malibu. The ignition switch on these cars is mounted on the dash and the wiper control stalk is directly in front of it, about 2 inches from the key slot. The process for starting the car is insert key, turn to start, then turn the wipers off. It takes some articulate manuvering to turn the key without bumping the wiper switch on.

Tool_maker
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Platinum
Re: DASHBOARD DESIGN
Tool_maker   9/28/2012 5:16:45 PM
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  I had an instance where things were too familiar. My '84 K5 Blazer and my "77 K5 Blazer had very similar dashboard designs. One time I was exiting an interstate at a place I used to exit daily when going to work. I let my mind wander as I approached an intersection trying to remember how things were the last time I had traversed this way. As my mind traveled back, the truck was slowing and I reached my left foot over to depress the clutch and prepared to shift into 2nd gear.

  Suddenly, the truck screeched to a halt, my wife flew forward in her seat and I realized I was not driving the '77 with a stick shift, but my "84 automatic. "What was that all about?" "Oh just daydreaming." But fortunately I had not moved the shift lever or I would have slammed it into park.

notarboca
User Rank
Gold
Re: DASHBOARD DESIGN
notarboca   9/29/2012 4:16:07 PM
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I never considered the fact that a manufacturer might want you to get used to "your" car only, within their models.  Makes perfect sense.  I drive Dodge/Chryslers, and have to take a minute to figure out other brands.  On another note, remember when the switch for bright headlights was on the floor?

Tool_maker
User Rank
Platinum
Re: DASHBOARD DESIGN
Tool_maker   10/1/2012 12:30:11 PM
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  Maybe I just never paid that much attention, but I do not recall owning any other car or truck where I could not just glance and find the gauges. The positioning of the 4-wheel drive control is not just poor design, it is dangerous.

Dave
User Rank
Gold
If you appreciate gauges.....
Dave   9/27/2012 11:41:04 AM
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Few cars provide more information in front of the driver than a 5th generation (97-04) Corvette. Not only are there plenty of analog gauges but there is also a digital display, directly in front of the driver. That display can show everything on the gauges and lots more. One of its handiest features is the ability to display failure codes - a feature removed in 2005. I am thoroughly spoiled!

Battar
User Rank
Platinum
Focus not much better
Battar   9/28/2012 4:22:18 PM
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We've got Ford Focuses as company cars. Not much better. There are 10 buttons on the steering wheel, four marked with arrows and two marked "OK". None of them changes the volume on the radio. The button on the centre console which switches the radio between manual and preset mode is marked with a symbol similar to the logo of well known sports shoe manufacturer. There are 2 such buttons.  Don't get me started on the climate control interface.

Cadman-LT
User Rank
Platinum
4WD A/C
Cadman-LT   10/8/2012 2:02:20 PM
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I just read about the 4WD and A/C problem on a different vehicle in an off-road magazine I get. I don't know why they do that.

AJ1
User Rank
Iron
Expy monkeys
AJ1   10/10/2012 9:42:30 AM
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I have a 2003 Expedition, and I hate where they put the 4WD rotary switch.  It is hidden behind the gear shift lever when you are driving.  It has happened that you will bump the transmission out of Drive while trying to access the switch.  It is just fine if you are in Park ,which is probably the only time the design got reviewed.  It just doesn't work well for when you are actually driving and need 4WD immediately.

I remember my 1973 Ford having the ignition switch on the left.  Our Chevy's were on the right in pickups until 73 when they went on the steering column.

 

ChasChas
User Rank
Gold
Habits
ChasChas   10/10/2012 6:31:05 PM
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Habits are tough. Something like quitting smoking. But, we can always blame the manufacturer. That's what smokers are doing.

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