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Beth Stackpole
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Blogger
Irksome indicator lights
Beth Stackpole   8/24/2011 7:25:39 AM
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A story we can all relate to. While I can appreciate all of the warning and reminder messages of this current generation of software-driven cars, there is something to be said about the annoyance of constantly having messages flash at you while you're trying to get from point A to point B.

I currently have been driving around for weeks with a message from my car, "a B12 service indicator." While I appreciate my vehicle's diligence in reminding me to get an oil change, brakes checked or whatever else this service constitutes, the fact that it's up there 24/7--not once every time I turn on the car--is a pain. The error message masks all the other good stuff my dashboard could tell me like outside temperature or mileage.

I realize that in this particular case, the "airbag disabled" sensor message is a safety issue, and perhaps it's important to flash that continuously when something is questionable. But when my 90-pound lab jumps in my front seat, that constant flashing and dinging and nagging can get old. There could be such a thing as sensor overload--just saying.

sensor pro
User Rank
Gold
Re: Irksome indicator lights
sensor pro   8/24/2011 11:55:50 AM
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I understand your frustration however it is the requirement of our "paper pushers" in govenment that feel that we do not have brains to make our own decisions.

I just purchased a new car andevery time I start the car,  the NAV system comes up with a screen stating that it is dangerous to look at the screen while driving. I have every time to press some keys to start the NAV screen. I visited the dealer and he stated that it is the requirement of the screen must stay. They can not remove it.

Isn't is stupid. They make the navigation screen to look at and they tell you it is dangerous to look at. 

 

Beth Stackpole
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Irksome indicator lights
Beth Stackpole   8/24/2011 12:10:24 PM
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I know. The more bells and whistles and sensors and navigation aids and what-not, the more distractions and the more the whole vehicle impinges on safety.

sensor pro
User Rank
Gold
Re: Irksome indicator lights
sensor pro   8/24/2011 12:15:13 PM
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Agree 100%.

Nevertheless, these reminders are so so so out of place. The issue of liability just makes it sick. I dod not want to be reminded that it is dangerous to look at the screen of the NAV. Come on, once is enough.

Don't you think I'm correct?!?!

Beth Stackpole
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Irksome indicator lights
Beth Stackpole   8/24/2011 4:27:46 PM
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Yes, Sensor Pro. I do think you're right. Whether it's your Nav telling you do something or the annoying light on my car reminding me I'm remiss with my service schedule, telling us once quickly when turn the car on is quite enough. So you're saying that's due to safety regulations, not sensor overkill or any other kind of design choice?

sensor pro
User Rank
Gold
Re: Irksome indicator lights
sensor pro   8/24/2011 9:33:48 PM
Yes, the issue is not design, but regulation. The point is : basic liability. lets say i drive and miss an exit. I would then look again at the screen to see where the next exit is. If I get in the accident, the car company will claim no responsibility as I was informed that it is dangerous to look at the screen during driving. That is it.

donevol
User Rank
Iron
Re: Irksome indicator lights
donevol   8/25/2011 10:08:51 AM
The intention of the requirement to disable the airbag is to protect small children from its potential fury while leaving it enabled for larger persons. The sad part of the story is that the writer and agency of the government specification failed to recognize that the key trigger should be the weight of the passenger, with specific pass/fail weight/mass values, independent of any seat position adjustments. And...to defend potential liability issues, the car maker went overboard to pass the exact test as specified rather than ask for clarification or recognize that it should also work at any seat position.

Ratsky
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Irksome indicator lights
Ratsky   8/25/2011 11:30:56 AM
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As usual, it's worse than that: the regulations include a specific intent that weight alone is NOT sufficient, since apparently they believe height is also an issue.  That's the reason there is even a mention of fore/aft seat position; the theory is that if the seat is too close to the airbag location, it can do more damage to the passenger than the crash would!  I believe that latest technologies for airbags include variable inflation force to give options other that activate/deactivate.  You're absolutely right about the automakers responding rationally to an irrational situation.

Tim
User Rank
Platinum
20%??
Tim   8/24/2011 8:49:20 PM
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The funny thing on this story is that even after removing and reprogramming the seat for a recall repair the disabled light still came on 20% of the time.  This is an improvement of the original 50%, but it is still not perfect.

Ratsky
User Rank
Platinum
Minor Edit error!
Ratsky   8/25/2011 9:43:04 AM
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As the original writer of this story, I have to correct an error: the Sonata (at least in 2006 model) HAS NO WAY at all to reflash ANY micro, much less a simple and now universal solution as via OBD II.  The recall involved REPLACING the seat controller completely!  Apparently this is beyond the dealer's allowable service tasks.  Now THAT is NOT due to any government regulation, just a total misunderstanding of the imperfectibility of firmware.

Jack Rupert, PE
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Minor Edit error!
Jack Rupert, PE   8/25/2011 12:51:23 PM
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Its one thing if they decided that the firmware won't be changed (yeah, right) and they wanted to leave that feature out.  However, what sort of design is it that the dealer can't even change the controller out...and on a recall claim, no less?

jhankwitz
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Irksome indicator lights
jhankwitz   8/25/2011 11:25:19 AM
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The passenger warning light illuminates in my Toyota when someone is in the seat.  It's very distracting when this dashboard warning light in on whenever I have a passenger.  It's set so you can't dim it down with the rest of the lights on the dashboard, which makes it very distracting.

Like, what is someone supposed to do if you have a passenger and the light doesn't go on?  Throw them out of the car? 

But worst than that, when I go more than 5,000 miles on an oil change, an illuminated red triangle with an exclamation mark pops up on my dash.  That signage is the ANSI Z535.6 "DANGER" warning which is defined as "hazardous situation which, if not avoided, will result in death or serious injury".  When this warning sign popped up for the first time on an overnight cross-country trip, I totally panicked.  I wonder what signage they use if a legitimatel dangerious condition occurs.

rosek
User Rank
Silver
A guv'ment problem?
rosek   8/25/2011 11:43:07 AM
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If this were just a guv'ment problem (really a lawyer problem), then why haven't we heard about a rash of these problems with other auto manufacturer's products?  My Freestyle has a similar feature and it seems to be working perfectly.

Ratsky
User Rank
Platinum
Re: A guv'ment problem?
Ratsky   8/25/2011 1:29:36 PM
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I don't know what planet you live on!  ALL manufacturers have had issues similar to this; just because you never got a recall notice doesn't mean there isn't a problem.  Try Googling "airbag + auto +recall" to open your eyes.  Just in the past month, Ford recalled 1.5 MILLION F150s for an airbag problem (this one was possible unintended triggering, even more dangerous); GM recalled 50K Cadillac SRX models for another.  Also Toyota, etc. There are a couple of web services (free) that will periodically e-mail you notices of recalls, service bulletins, and common complaints for specific models and years.  I used one of these until very recently for both the 2006 Sonata and my 2003 Camry (whose biggest problem I had was a bad steering column that Toyota refused to repair/replace under warranty).  I finally unsubscribed because there were so many of the same issues every month reported by new victims it was very discouraging.

OlderEngineer
User Rank
Iron
The lessons...
OlderEngineer   8/25/2011 2:35:07 PM
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Isn't the lesson in all this to buckle the kids in the back seat (using a car seat when needed) and always where your seat belt and shoulder harness?

Cars are no longer just a means of transportation but mobile communications and entertainment capsules.  The public brought this on themselves by demanding more and more features to take their mind off the task of driving and then expecting the government to protect them from the inevitable injuries which occur by not paying attention. 

When I see car ads that only speak up how "connected" I can be, I automatically remove them from my want list.  If the manufacturer doesn't first try to convince me that it's a better car I don't want it!

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: The lessons...
Rob Spiegel   8/26/2011 9:13:12 AM
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I agree with OlderEngineer. I kept all three of my kids in the backseat until they were nearly adults. A simply look at statistics will scare you into this behavior. Thus, sensors in the passenger seat were never an issue. I can't see the idea of putting a kid in the most dangerous seat and then figuring out how to make it just a tad safer.

John
User Rank
Gold
seat airbag modules
John   8/25/2011 3:02:34 PM
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Sounds like the mercury switch in the seat isn't oriented correctly.  I would imagine they have to be sent off to a repair facility because of the liability issues.  The airbag module under or in the seat has it's own power source and can be triggered even when it's disconnected from the rest of the car if not handled correctly.

The triangle exclamation mark symbol on the dash is correct, something on your car is going to be permently damaged.  probably resulting in failure if not looked at.  If it were real serious, would have died right there. 

Personally, I wouldn't buy a car with navigation builtin.  Hand held units do just as well and far cheaper.  But gadgets sell cars and can part people with even more money.

LloydP
User Rank
Gold
Re: seat airbag modules
LloydP   8/25/2011 3:57:16 PM
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Measuring the weight/presence/size of an occupant directly is not a simple matter, as a passenger's feet may rest on the floor pan, making the passenger seem lighter. Cinching a seat belt on a child seat may add to the load on the cushon, making the occupant appear heavier.

Most of the occupant sensing systems I am aware of (I was involved in the development of one of these systems before I retired) use some sort of mat embedded in the foam of the seat. Most of the error in the system is involved in the placement of the sensing technology (membrane switches, capaitance elements, etc) to optimize the estimate of the passenger weight. The closer the sensing mat is to the top surface of the seat, the better weight estimate can be made. However, this position makes the sensing mat much more vulnerable to damage.

Well designed software can only estimate occupant size based on the "goodness" of the sensor data it sees. If the sensing mat is the culprit in the initial complaint, no amount of software upgrades will ever cure the problem.

It is easy to pass the test defined in the FMVSS standard. However, designing a system that is effective in the real world is much more complicated. "Due dilligence" required that we use a veritible Kama Sutra of occupant positions to extend the sensor capability beyond the test requirements to encompass real world usage.

David McCollum
User Rank
Gold
Passenger airbag issues
David McCollum   8/26/2011 5:17:11 PM
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I have a similar airbag situation in my two Suzukis. If I go somewhere alone, the light says PASSENGER AIRBAG OFF. For example, if my girlfriend gets into the car and I leave without turning the ignition off and restarting the car, the light remains on. Normally, I stop, get out, escort her to the car, and restart, so this issue may have been present all along and I never noticed it until now. (She's not a small girl, so I don't think it's a weight / sensitivity issue.) Since both of my Forenzas, an '05 and an '04 act exactly the same way, I suspect it is inherent in the design of the system.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Airbag light irks
William K.   8/28/2011 7:52:01 PM
NO RATINGS
The best solution would be for airbags to be optional equipment, not a very expensive stack of ordinance forced on everybody. BUT safety DOES NOT SELL! This has been demonstarted repeatedly over the years. The only way to make safety profitable is to bribe congress into forcing everybody to buy it. This is not a new discovery, it was demonstrated in the auto industry many years ago with anti-lock brakes. When they were an option, they were an expensive money-loser, but once they became nandatory, they are a profit source.

With the front passenger airbag there was a very real probability of the back firing in a collision with nobody in the seat, thus adding about $2000 to the repair costs of a collision. Even worse, having a frail old person or  five-year old in the passenger seat did repeatedly result in the passengers death by this inescapable option. Thus came the seat switch. In my car the passenger airbad disabled warning comes on with books or a briefcase on the seat, which is fine, since they certainly don't need any protection to survive. 

The fact that the specification is not clear about exactly when it must disable and enable shows that the rule was not created by engineers, or anybody else who knew what they were doing. Perhaps they were monkeys?

 



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