Rob, I'm particularly attuned to car design including the interior controls since I just finished car shopping and purchased a new car. It was my first new car purchase, so I made sure to take my time and enjoy the process of evaluation and decisions.
The steering wheel mounted controls for the radio are fantastic. The push buttons control the radio volume, source (FM, AM, XM, CD or aux input), and channel (including music CD track). I don't have to remove my hand from the steering wheel while driving for typical radio adjustments. It's a feature I wanted on my new car, since I grew to enjoy this feature on my wife's '07 Acura TSX.
About the "hot-seat emergency", I noticed the switches for the heated seats on my new Honda Civic are also directly in front of the gear shifter. Since the car has an automatic transmission, there's not much risk of accidently turning on the heated seats. My wife's Acura heated seat switches are on the center console, and the heated seats have been accidently turned-on a few times...I've learned not to do that.
Radio controls on the steering column are a new one on me, Rickz28. The last two cars I've owned had windshield wipers on the turn signal. That's very convenient, but it also means I inadvertently turn on the wipers when I use the turn signals.
I also realized the same thing in rental cars years ago...figure out where the lights and windshield wiper switches are located upon getting in the car. At the time, I had 1970's era cars where the lights and windshield wiper controls were all on the dash board...not on stalks connected to the steering column.
With my new Honda Civic, I occasionally hit the windshield wiper switch on the steering column stalk when reaching for the navigation/radio system...which turns on the wipers. I'm training myself to avoid inadvertently turning on the windshield wipers. I do enjoy the automatic lights so I don't have to remember. I also like the steering wheel controls for the radio/car computer/navigation/phone and cruise control.
The issue of leg room is a big one in my family. My two youngest sons are 6'-7" and 6'-6" and have been unable to drive a number of different vehicles that I've either rented or brought home for test drives. A few cars are said to be very good in this area, however. Those include the Honda Fit and Nissan Cube (both have high roof lines). Shaqulle O'Neal does commercials for the Buick LaCrosse, which suggests that it can fit a 7-footer, but I haven't verified it. Surprisingly, Smart Cars are also said to be pretty good, again because of the high roof line. We've found that cars with sun roofs and moon roofs aren't very good. Tall people end up with their heads squeezed up against the ceilings.
I also own the new Outback - my fourth Subaru. While these are good cars, the most affordable and fuel efficient AWD vehicles around, they do suffer from poorly designed user interfaces.
The horizontal, center console mounted, seat heater switches that Richard mentions, have been their design essentially forever (at least from mid '90s). And yes, they are very easy to accidentally turn on. It is nice to hear that Richard, like myself, is a diehard manual transmission fan. Apparently the console designers do NOT drive a manual, and don't realize how easy it is to hit the buttons when shifting.
Perhaps the worst interface design is the Bluetooth system. A simple "passthrough" operation, like on Bluetooth headsets, would be quite usable, and easy to design. But no, the designers have opted to make it more complex and less usable. You must record the name and number of only up to 20 contacts, and use their "less than perfect" voice recognition operation. Why? A passthrough connection to the phone, which generally has a much better voice recognition, would be much more usable. I can only guess that the designers are not using Bluetooth when driving. Or they suffer from the poorly trained marketeer's curse of "We have some technology. Let's use it, no matter how silly it is." I guess they never heard of KISS.
Wow, so the problems continue to be a bother. I went through a period when I used a good number of rental cars. The first thing I did was check where the lights were and how the window wipers worked. Those are hard systems to learn on the spot.
All electrical switches should have spill proofing feature or else they should not be placed in a horizontal surface near the console. Seat warmer, power windows, etc.
Here is a somewhat stretched real story of unprotected switch.
A quarter fell through the open slot of the shifter bezel, lodged i somewhere below and eventually shifted and jammed the shifter position switch open. After I parked the car in the airport parking lot I couldn't remove the key to lock the car! Apparently the design intent was to require the shifter to be in P to release the key, ostensibly for safety. But with that particular failure mode the security of the car was thoroughly compromised. I was lucky to have a passenger so I could dispatch a live human guard while picking up the second, arriving passenger.
For the next couple of weeks I used a second key to lock the doors, and a cap sitting on the ledge of the dash to cover the ever in-position ignition key, until eventually I removed the shifter bezel and found the culprit. Judging from the appearance of grime and dried up syrup, the coin had probably been there for a long time, even before I bought the car. It was probably in a non-interefering position but over time shifted to fool the safety design.
This was a Volvo 940 turbo stationwagon. But I believe all of 740, 940, and 960 shared the same key-shifter `safety' interlock design.
We looked at a number of sources to determine this year's greenest cars, from KBB to automotive trade magazines to environmental organizations. These 14 cars emerged as being great at either stretching fuel or reducing carbon footprint.
Healthcare might seem to be an unlikely target application for the Internet of Things technology, but recent developments show small ways that big-data is going to make an impact on patient care moving into the future.
A quick look into the merger of two powerhouse 3D printing OEMs and the new leader in rapid prototyping solutions, Stratasys. The industrial revolution is now led by 3D printing and engineers are given the opportunity to fully maximize their design capabilities, reduce their time-to-market and functionally test prototypes cheaper, faster and easier. Bruce Bradshaw, Director of Marketing in North America, will explore the large product offering and variety of materials that will help CAD designers articulate their product design with actual, physical prototypes. This broadcast will dive deep into technical information including application specific stories from real world customers and their experiences with 3D printing. 3D Printing is