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.
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.
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.
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!!!
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!
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.
..... 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.....
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.
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.
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)
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