This sounds like Toyota is following a trend I've seen in car dashboards for some time: clustering more and more functions on a single knob/dial. Considering the fact that there's limited space on the dash and yet more "features" that must be accommodated, this is likely to continue.
I agree, Ann. I see that "clustering" effect repeatedly. I recently rented a car on vacation, and there were so many features clustered into the center console knobs that three adults couldn't figure out how to turn on the radio, until 35 minutes later, when we had arrived at our destination.
I have to post one more thing that bothers me about our new Sienna, but other new cars have the same issue.
I have a set of keys that I always carry in my pocket. Those include my pickup keys and remote (my primary vehicle) house keys and a key for the Toyota Sienna. First off, the toyota key is a massive three and a quarter inches long, where a normal house key is two inches long and my pickup key is two and three-quarters of an inch long. So, I have this long key that's always poking me in my pocket. I refuse to carry the remote for both my pickup and the Sienna, so I have to use the key to get into the Sienna. Well, on the new model Sienna, there's no exterior key hold on the passenger side of the vehicle! So, to let the kids in, I have to walk around to the other side of the vehicle to use my key. I thought this was odd, but my Dad's 2011 Ford F-150 also doesn't have a key on the passenger side of the vehicle. Definitely a cost saving issue there, with the amount of physical parts required to install the other lock.
Apparently I'm the only person in the world who doesn't use the remote control to unlock a vehicle....
No, you're not the only one. I like to open the door for my wife, or to let the grandkids in. Not having the lock on the passenger side is a true inconvenience, as we only have one remote for our (admittedly older) Altima. I usually don't have that remote.
As for the dash controls, there are decidedly unsafe conditions while adjusting newer vehicles. Perhaps that is why we need so many airbags.
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.
I'm with you, as my Mazda 5 has both hard-to-fathom HVAC controls *and* driver-side-only key lock.
Mazda, However, acheived their HVAC control opacity through oblique logic of knob+button interaction. They didn't need the additional investment of a whizbang LCD touchscreen interface.
If, though, you want to complain about technology introducing safety risk, let's discuss power windows. How is one to get out of a car wreck with a "down" electrical system and accessible doors sufficiently undamaged yet held shut by debris?
Slightly obscure? Yeah, I guess.
Safety reduction? Clearly.
Who seeks, accepts & buys cars like this? um,.... me, you, everybody.
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)
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.
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.
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....
S22.214.171.124 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. S126.96.36.199 The means of providing the visibility required by S188.8.131.52: (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.
I also still use real keys. Especially for vehicles I don't drive every day (my wife's van). I used to get copies of keys made (cheap ones without plastic) and use them. Then it got to where I couldn't find non-plastic overlay key blanks. I figured out I could get those keys made up then break off the offending plasti blobs. I have 10 keys on my keychain right now and a RFID fob. They all lay flat together. I'm dreading the day I'll need to upgrade again and not be able to do this any longer. I didn't notice the trend of leaving off the key on the passeneger side. That will definietly be a problem for me too.
My wife's Honda Odessy still has buttons, but the same problem. They are all in a row blended in with trim pieces with very fine breaks between them. You can't even tell if you are on a button by feel, not to mention which button. Each botton serves several purposes depending on what mode you are in. Terrible design. I can't turn the fan speed without looking down to find the button, then over to the LCD to see if the bars change to verrify that I'm moving the right thing. Touch screen would be worse.
This all boils down to cost and someone's idea of aesthetic design. fewer mechanical switches (or a touch screen) and use software to tie them to motiple options reduces cost. One knob for everything is hazerdous and marketed as a feature.
Don't even get me started on the touch screen selectable soda pop dispensers that are showing up all over. Stand behind some jr high kids going through menues to select their pop and dispense when you used to just shove the cup against the apropriate lever......
You make a really good point that many of us often ignore, vimalkumarp. Toyota is one of the best in the auto industry, and yet there's apparently still a problem here. I doubt that the big automakers like Toyota are ignoring this issue. I think this shows how complex these designs have become, even for the best and brightest designers, as well.
Same case as the Air Conditioner controls in my old 1991 Dodge Spirit R/T versus the 2002 Dodge Stratus R/T... The older one allowed me to direct cool air towards the floor, which was very useful when returning on hot summer days from the supermarket with delicate food.
But the geniuses at Chrysler that designed the newer models decided to use a single large knob that lacks the option to direct the cool air towards the floor. (Fortunately, they still allowed the use of the heater to warm feet!).
For me, the (Ab)use of single multiple function knobs in autos is a result of the wrong and stupid culture of designers that try to cram as many "functions" as they can. Another bad design practice or tendency is using overly long "Menus" to perform a given task... Just try to find the stupid function buried deep inside a sub-menu of the sub-menu inside the main Menu!!!
That's a funny story, Chuck and reminds me of several times I've rented a car on a business trip only to find I couldn't get out of the parking lot for half an hour while I figured out how to use the controls so I could drive it and adjust interior features like the radio, A/C, lights, etc. Back in the day when Japanese cars were new to Americans, I remember noticing how easy it was on my first car--a Datsun--to figure out which knobs did what because of the clear icons. I never bought American cars after that, and avoid them when I rent. But clustering too many on one knob defeats this.
Some of those rental cars I got stuck in were American cars. I remember the one where I couldn't figure out how to turn on the headlights as evening came on because the headlights control turns out to be on that knob way down by your left foot. This one was completely unmarked--no helpful little light bulb icon. And no user manual in the glove box: the assumption was that *everyone* knew where that knob was and what it was for. I got to the hotel just before it became too dark to drive. Next day, I drove to a friend's house nearby and he showed me where to find the headlight switch.
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.
I agree, Ann. Too many problems with voice recognition. Because I'm a lousy typist, I once tried a voice-type system. It didn't work out well. See the link below from 2000, describing my problems with it.
Chuck, thanks for that link--your description was hilarious. What's really sad, though, is I can find equally funny descriptions of such garbled sentences from VR systems back in the early 90s and before. I've been waiting a really, really long time for these things to get workable and they just don't, at least, not without excruciatingly long "training" sessions (where users train the VRS). If someone has more recent and more positive news about this, I'd like to hear it.
To be fair, I haven't tried voice-type since my failed attempt of 13 years ago. Maybe it has improved a lot since then; I don't know. But the mistakes those systems made in the '90s were incredible -- you couldn't make them up.
That's not being "Curmudgeon" at all... That's is plain old simple common sense.
People is being mesmerized by stupid non-sense "technology" and ends up buying cars that are much more difficult to repair, maintain and operate, and that become disposable soon.
It is absurd that inside this overzealous storm of "green" pretentions, the market is heading towards even stupider designs to satisfy stupider consumers.
Here in Mexico, recent models of almost new Ford midsize cars, infested with so called "electronic wizardry" have been filling dealers shops for under warranty repairs, that most dealerships are not able to fix easily or timely.
A sane measure would be to actually measure distraction time when people look away from the road, and proceed against manufacturers that are infesting vehicles with distraction causing devices. One friend of mine, that happens to work at a large manufacturer of automotive goods (Goodyear hoses and belts), suffered an ugly accident when a distracted driver invaded his lane heading in opposite direction when the driver was "adjusting" the vehicle's touchscreen entertainment system.
Fortunately, the collision was at a very low speed, but enough to deploy the airbag in the Nissan March of my friend, Interestingly, that caused him MORE damage than otherwise (he suffered cervical injuries, serious skin burns on his face and a broken nose. Apparently, the airbag deployment was excessively powerful for his body weight and size.
The surgeon that treated him declared the injuries were definitely caused by the airbag and not the crash itself. So much for "too advanced car technology".
On the other hand, when IVR (interactive voice recognition) (phone answering & call directing) systems get to a point where they maintain (or even lower) a caller's blood pressure, instead of raising it, I'll be happy to continue this conversation.
(1) I run into these most often with my health insurance company.
(2) these things seem to have gotten worse, not better, in recent years.
TunaFish#5, ha ha. I totally agree. It's the financial services companies and utilities' IVR systems that annoy me the most. Some of them have gotten worse in their ability to recognize what you're saying. But I think a lot of the issue is how they're being deployed, in automated systems to deal with the non-exception cases. For some reason, my problems are usually the exception case that require a human.
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.
Two simple things that they could have done to make it better:
- Put an LED on the Air Conditioning button (like the old model had).
- Make the fan speed adjustment more instantaneous.
We like the separate left/right HVAC temperature controls, but the single button mode switch is a real annoyance.
And, then there's the issue of the built-in bluetooth support to cell phones. If you have more than one phone assocated with the system, it won't automatically switch to the phones which are active. Instead, you have to go through a multi-step process to manually select the phone that you want active! I've just been leaving it synched to my wife's phone, as it's too much of a pain to change back and forth....
It is like these displays were designed by overgrown children in a vacuum from really using it with division of attention. Web designers are the same way. If print will do they put red on a blue background and flash things to surely irritate the user. I fault management for allowing this to get into production.
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 agree with Ann that Toyota might have had the space factor in their development of the new minivan 2013. However it would have been essential for the engineers to have the ease of use of the few knobs to the users. The engineers, while trying to make use of the limited space, should develop user friendly knobs that ensure a smooth driving experience.
AnandY, even though I (and others) complained about too many features and not enough knobs, I can imagine that it must be quite a design challenge to make controls whose functions are easily graspable when there are so many features crowded into one space. So maybe it's at least as much a marketing problem.
I think the idea that Toyota cannot allow you to change certain features while the vehicle is in motion is purely for safety purposes. Aside from the additional buttons, the small color display is a plus and what's more is that it is near the windscreen. This will make it easier for drivers to make use of it without necessarily taking their eyes off the road for long
After driving the new van a lot on family vacation last week, here are some more things that I noticed:
- The old van (2005) had a little fold down hook on the passenger's side of the dash, near the person's left knee. I belive it was there to hang a purse or trash bag. We used it for a car trash bag. The new van has no hook, so the trash bag slides around.
- The old van had spacious compartments inside both front doors, under a padded armrest that lifted up. The new van has no compartments at all in the doors, besides the open space on the bottom, like the old van had. We used to keep change and sunglasses in there, now they have to be stashed elsewhere.
- I agree with my wife that the long slots in the floor to accomodate the sliding second row seats are going to get filled with junk that falls in there. But, if you cover the slots the seats can't slide. I put in aftermarket floor mats from clearmats dot com and they have nice coverage, leaving the slots open. Their front floor mats are smaller than I'd like though.
- On the positive side, the new van's speed limiter is somewhere above 100mph, unlike the old van. :)
- The engine and transmission on the new van work quite well and we were getting over 24mpg on the highway at above legal speeds.
- I really like the dual sliding doors, electric rear hatch and power sunroof. It was nice cruising at the beach with the sunroof open.
- The HVAC controls still suck, but it was really nice to adjust my wife and my temperatures separately, especially when the sun was shining on my side only when I was driving.
A slew of announcements about new materials and design concepts for transportation have come out of several trade shows focusing on plastics, aircraft interiors, heavy trucks, and automotive engineering. A few more announcements have come independent of any trade shows, maybe just because it's spring.
Samsung's Galaxy line of smartphones used to fare quite well in the repairability department, but last year's flagship S5 model took a tumble, scoring a meh-inducing 5/10. Will the newly redesigned S6 lead us back into star-studded territory, or will we sink further into the depths of a repairability black hole?
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