Who is responsible for the terrible controls engineering in vehicles? Why do all the car companies seem to walk lock step with poor design practices?
At one time, you could distinguish the car's controls by their very distinctive feel and location - no need to look. These days you have a maze of identical buttons many in long rows that take your eyes off the road while you search out the button you want. The same applies to all the buttons on the steering wheel - you have to look down to find the right button. How hard would it be to to give distinct contours to the buttons and their locations? Steering wheel stalks seem to be designed to activate your wipers when you want to turn and switch to high beam when you want to turn on your wipers. The designs demand that you take your eyes off the road.
Perhaps the worse example of irresponsible design is the Prius and Mini, among others that have their speedometer in the middle of the dash. Bodyshops report that the most common collision point on these vehicles is the front left corner. Every other manufacturer has followed this design blunder by locating the main graphics display well away from the driver's line of sight down the road. I've responded by mounting a stand alone GPS low on the dash right in my line of sight after many frightening surprises after glancing at the factory GPS down and well off to the right. This modification has certainly reduced my stress level when driving in unfamiliar territory.
It's too late for the greatest safety hazard of all, the cellphone. The horse left the barn years ago. Daily I come across drivers slowing right down when they're on the phone and then speeding off when they get off - and then repeating. I've even seen a driver stop in the middle of an intersection while in the middle of a conversation, oblivious to the traffic and another drive right through a red light.
We don't hold drivers responsible for those they kill or enforce distraction laws so people, like my brother, are just going to continue to get killed. Law enfocement is focused on catching speeders proably because it's easier to prove and more fun. These days, when I drive, I keep in mind that the majority of the drivers are enemies, they have no clue what they are doing and really don't care who they kill. I drive the speed limit, keep my distance and stay alert. It's sort of like driving in Vietnam during the war but without the land mines.
I agree, Chuck, the cognitive distraction is very real. But sometimes it's had to tell what a cognitive distraction is. When radios were first introduced to cars, there was backlash from people who believed the radio would dangerously distract the driver. Yet clearly it doesn't.
The more technological advances become available, the more problems stemming from the use of that technology becomes evident. Just look at the abuses that occur in cyberspace because it is not regulated. I think Star Trek had the right of it - we need a Prime Directive to regulate human behavior since we can't seem to do it ourselves...what is it that the Terminator said about humanity - "It is in your nature to destroy yourselves." Okay maybe I am being a bit overdramatic but I think it's a valid point...if left to our own devices we want instant gratification regardless of the safety issues that may be involved. We want to hear our radio station right now! even if we are driving in traffic and have to glance down to see the right preselect button to push - or we MUST read that text because it can't wait 5 minutes...the world might end...
Not only that, Elizabeth - people become desensitized to whatever is serving to direct their attention. Those LED lights will work the first few times to redirect a person's attention - until they get used to them. As Charles said - the technology to fix technology doesn't work well...it's a losing proposition. If everyone lost a family member in a car accident due to someone texting or looking at their "Smart" phone (not very smart if you ask me since it causes such irresponsible behavior) then I think that ban on technology devices would pass.
What we have here, Liz, is technology that's meant to fix a problem that technology caused in the first place. The obvious solution is not to let a lot of this stuff into the car in the first place. Unfortunately, that's never going to happen.
I was amazed by how many of these solutions, and the subsequent discussion, confused "eyes on the road" with "mind on the road". They take the need to look away from the road away, or remind you to look back. Instead they distract you with your eyes in place. Heads up displays are a perfect example of this. If you have 20 pieces of information popping at you, it hardly matters whether it is on your dashboard or on your windshield.
Right approach, reduce interaction, reduce interruption. For example, a reminder to get your oil changed should only appear when the vehicle is stopped. Calendar reminders and other non-critical items should not even be available while the engine is on.
To that end, voice command is a good thing. However, audio cues and flashing lights should be limited to critical matters. Nothing should grab your attention unless it is critical (e.g. you are about to run out of gas).
All of the focus in this discussion is on the driver. I find that an important factor in safe driving is knowing what the other drivers are doing, or are going to do. The ones who do not use their turn signals are the biggest problem I face. My way of dealing with it is to be very defensive, and use my headlight flasher to signal them to go first. That way I can avoid the surprise of them making a left turn in front of me with no warning.
Drivers who do not turn on their headlight when it is getting dark, or it is raining are another problem. At least some cars have automatic lights and wipers. As I have said several times in these blogs, bad car design is also a problem. Light placement and brightness, hard to see instrument panels and displays are other examples. Many times I have faced a car with its turn signals on at night, and I could not tell because they were so close to the bright headlights that they were overpowered. It is important to remember that drivers must deal with other traffic along with their own car.
People designing cars must be made aware of simple physics, such the relative brightness of lights, and making sure the driver can actually see out of the car. or read the speedometer in varying light conditions. Also not putting important display information in a place where it is blocked by the steering wheel is important. The more I read what I have said, the more it sounds like the real answer is driverless cars.
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