The trend you're describing, rickgtoc, sounds like it might have something to do with entry-level cars versuis premium cars. Ironically, the premium cars end up having more bells and whistles, and are more difficult to use as a result.
Back in the late 80's, I was travelling and renting cars frequently. It seemed like some auto makers prided themselves in the novelty of location of basic controls, relocating them radically between models of the same make. I began requesting Chrysler products as rental cars, because the primary controls - lighs, dimmer, windshield wiper and climate controls were consistently places across their various models. No one-hour training session before leaving the rental lot.
The trend to trouchscreen controls is particularly bothersome. To operate a touchscreen, one MUST look at the screen, usually multiple times. And the touchscreens lend themselves to multilevel menus, meaning even more time with eyes off the road.
Steering wheel, clutch, brakes and accelerator are all standardized. The other basic operating and safety controls - ignition lock, shift lever, lights, turn signals, headlight dimmer, panel dimmer, mirror adjusters and climate controls - should not require moving ones eyes from the road to operate nor significant movement from normal driving position to reach them. They should be recognizable by position and feel such that in total darkenss (as in as dark as a cave) one could reliably operate them given no more than about 15 minutes daylight experience. Currently, it looks like manufacurers are designing distracted driving into their vehicles.
I left 'entertainment controls' - radio and its successors off the list, but even that should at the very least have a convenient, "could-find-it-in-total-darkness" Off control.
Most recent encounter: a machine for paying for parking in a garage on a major university campus. There are 2 buttons: "Add Time" and "Maximum". "Add Time" increases your purchase by 3 hours at a press. And the Maximum is 6 hours!
Why not just label the 2 buttons "3 Hours" and "6 Hours"? Or have just one button saying "Add 3 Hours"? Too simple, I guess. But a university degree shouldn't be a precondition of parking your car.
Worse, if you accidentally select the maximum time, there's no way to reduce it except by canceling the entire transaction and starting over with a fresh credit card swipe! (while the people waiting in line behind you groan)
I consider the lack of passenger side keyhole not only a nuisance, but a potential safety matter as well, because you will badly need it sooner or later. It is cheap and dirty design for a vehicle that is not the cheapest of the line. Remote's battery can become exhausted easily if someone keeps pressing buttons without noticing it at all (like when one presses the remote aginst a hard surface and in that case, you could find your remote is unable to open the lock, and Murphy's law stablishes that will happen in the worst possible condition, like when some dumb driver parks too close to your driver's side door, making it impossible to open the door. It's incredible how far (cheap) can automotive designers be these days. Amclaussen.
The most serious offence OEM can commit with respect to NHTSA is to KNOW and NOT NOTIFY them.
You can have defect that kills people, but if you tell them about it within 5 days of "knowing" about it, all is OK.
That is exactly why Toyota and now FORD have been fined up to $17.5 million (current maximum), while GM was never fined (even before they were Government Motors), GM just has better internal accounting process. TOYOTA and FORD failed to NOTIFY NHTSA, so they were fined for that, and not the defect itself.
Then the second (and only AFTER notification) issue comes to play is if there were accidents that people got killed in because of the defect, there may be thousands of "failures" but if there is no fatality, it does not count much.
And finally a written complaint or a petition to invetigate specific defect (can be by private owner or a concerned citizen), will become a public document that NHTSA has to respond to in 90 days.
Since the laws were all enacted long before Internet, there is nothing but "collection" of data from any on-line complaint. NHTSA even informs you after you file the "form" that they will take NO ACTION based on your complaint.
You can adjust the display brightness, but only when the vehicle is not in motion. (I didn't check if it can be done when just not moving, or if the transmission has to be in park.) And it does have a tie-in to the dimming circuit of the dash. Specifically, when the headlights are on, and you turn the dimming knob down, at some point, the display knocks down to a lower level of brightness, but that's it. I was thinking that the brightness would move in tune with the knob like the rest of the lights, but it just has a single step down at some point.
As for safety recalls, I'm much more concerned with the brake lines rusting out on my Chevy Silverado pickup truck. I definitely filed online with the NHTSA, as did hundreds/thousands of others, but I've never heard of anything happening. Maybe I should write a letter about that. It cost me $400 for stainless steel lines and many nights of horribly difficult labor to replace those brake lines! At least mine failed in my driveway, unlike many others who had them fail in the highway during a panic stop.
must be illuminated whenever the vehicle's propulsion system and headlamps are activated.
There is no mention of "deactivation while in motion" !!!
So what you describe is violation of this requirement.
Thus subject to recall and/or fine of $5,000 per affected vehicle....
S126.96.36.199 Means must be provided for illuminating the indicators, identifications of indicators and identifications of controls listed in Table 1 to make them visible to the driver under daylight and nighttime driving conditions. S188.8.131.52 The means of providing the visibility required by S184.108.40.206: (a) Must be adjustable to provide at least two levels of brightness; (b) At a level of brightness other than the highest level, the identification of controls and indicators must be barely discernible to the driver who has adapted to dark ambient roadway condition; (c) May be operable manually or automatically; and (d) May have levels of brightness, other than the two required visible levels of brightness, at which those items and identification are not visible.
The inability to adjust the brightness of ANY display on any OEM equipment, is VIOLATION of FMVSS (displays and controls) as well as (lights).
So TOYOTA will have to not only recall ALL the affected vehicles, but most likely there will be another $17.5 million fine, since they either did know or should have known for more than FIVE days, and did not notify NHTSA.
BUt do MORE than just the initial on line complaint with NHTSA, also send formal letter by US mail to the office, specifically pointing out the NON-COMPLIANCE with FMVSS.
I will look up the exact wording and FMVSS # and will post it in few minutes.
If vehicle owners DO NOT complain to the proper agency, nothing much will ever happen no matter how many posts there are on the Internet, NHTSA does not have a personnel to monitor (or budget) Internet blogs.
START your complaint process here (have the VIN handy as you need to enter it for any complaint to be validated)
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