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naperlou
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Blogger
automobile design
naperlou   10/1/2012 10:35:52 AM
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Richard, you have discovered one of the conumdrums of modern automobile design.  We just replaced a ten year old minivan.  The transmission went and we decided that the cost of fixing that coupled with the mileage on the van made a replacement the prudent thing to do.  This was for my wife.  So, while we didn't have quite the leap you did, there is quite a difference.  We also had two cars from the same manufacturer from the same year.   The controls were not exactly the same, but they were similar.  Now they are very different.  We have not run into quite the issues you have, but it does take some adjustment.  There always seems to be something in a place you don't expect, or want it.  You would think that with all the ergonomics research that has been done that you new Subaru would be better laid out.

RBedell
User Rank
Gold
Re: automobile design
RBedell   10/1/2012 7:14:33 PM
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Yes, it does take time to adapt.  The emergency flasher will probably always be an issue with my large hands.  I do remember the first time it rained while driving the Subaru. I almost had to pull over to search for the windshield wiper control.  The Ford Escort was on the left hand steering column lever and the Subaru had it on the right side and it operated differently.  I have adapted.  I haven't hit the seat warmer in awhile either. But that emergency button...

TJ McDermott
User Rank
Blogger
Re: automobile design
TJ McDermott   10/2/2012 10:53:55 AM
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Richard, the dashboard has a finite amount of space.  Location of the hazard button is low priority, so it gets put low and "out of the way".  It's a somewhat understandable (if frustrating) design choice.

I have a bigger problem with changing the "standard" location of common controls.  The PT Cruiser design team made a conscious choice to simplify wiring.  Commendable.  Removing wiring harnesses from a door is always a good choice, except when controls that have ALWAYS been on the door get moved.  The PT Cruiser has its window controls mounted right in the middle of the dashboard.

Granted, it's a central location for both front seat occupants.  However, this is not a good design choice for a car that is frequently used in rental car fleets.  Every first-time renter who is not a PT Cruiser owner fumbles around for a minute looking for the window buttons.

olyh01
User Rank
Iron
Re: automobile design
olyh01   10/2/2012 10:59:22 AM
NO RATINGS
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.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: automobile design
Rob Spiegel   10/2/2012 11:48:13 AM
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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.

RickNY
User Rank
Silver
Poor user interface on a good car
RickNY   10/2/2012 3:13:03 PM
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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. 

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: automobile design
Charles Murray   10/2/2012 5:05:08 PM
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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.

radio-active
User Rank
Iron
Switch positions
radio-active   10/3/2012 10:04:32 AM
NO RATINGS
If a couple of poorly positioned switches are your top complaints with your new car, I'd say that's pretty good. You'll quickly learn to avoid hitting those switches. Humans are trainable.

RICKZ28
User Rank
Platinum
Re: automobile design
RICKZ28   10/3/2012 3:18:35 PM
NO RATINGS
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.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: automobile design
Rob Spiegel   10/3/2012 8:06:26 PM
NO RATINGS
Wow, those are some tall boys, Charles. Are you also tall? I would guess basketball has found a place in your family.

Interesting that the small cars have more head room. Are there particular car makers that generally have more room?

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