The Mad Blog

Help, a robot vomited in my car!

Help, a robot vomited in my car!

Vehicle design is something close to my heart and I love looking at a well-designed car. Apparently, so do many people who purchase cars. The external design is the first thing that catches your eye, either in the showroom or in a carefully crafted advertisement. 

And the external appearance is what the rest of the world sees - it is a statement about you and your tastes. No one likes the thought that the car they drive is perceived as ugly by the rest of the world. Unless of course you drive a Hummer, in which case you value the fear of fellow road users rather than their admiration.

But, while a good-looking car is important to me, most of the time I spend with my cars involves me being inside the cabin. Perhaps my driving style is different from most people, but I find it generally safer and more convenient to be inside my vehicle rather than outside. This means the majority of the time I am not looking at the outside of a car, but rather the inside - specifically, the dashboard and console.

This simple fact seems to have escaped the current crop of automotive designers and they have decided to style the interior of new cars with a theme of "Transformers" meets "Tron". Either that or they just gave up entirely and basically threw a bunch of dials, switches and vents in the general direction of the dash and glued stuff down where it landed.

I'm sorry, but when I see the terms "dynamic" or "kinetic" applied to what are actually important human-machine control interfaces, I get nervous. I don't want to be overcome with excitement or have my breath taken away by the switch gear when I drive. What I actually want is to be able to instantly recognise what does what, easily reach it, and intuitively operate it.

When I have pulled over by the side of the road and there is a truck bearing down on me in my rear vision mirror, I don't want to have to figure out if the slanted shiny thing above the gearstick is an air vent or the hazard light switch. When I want to clean the windscreen, I don't want to have to decide between the glowing red knob and the pulsing blue lever - I just want a plain black lever with a windscreen washer symbol on it.

In other words, I want my dash layout to be boringly predicable and - dare I say it - intuitive to use. So I can focus on the driving bit.

Unfortunately, cars that do have good interior layouts often get labelled as boring and predicable by most motoring writers, who seem to miss the point entirely. Maybe it's because they get to hand the cars back before they have to actually use them on a daily basis. Or before they stick their finger in the cigarette lighter rather than the cupholder.

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