Endless options, multiple menus, duplicate dashboard screens… modern cars are brimming with extra features to make you feel more in control. But I personally find all these in-car gadgets have the opposite effect.
It’s 5am, I’m adjusting to being up at such an early hour and am about to endure a two-hour drive into work. It’s a freezing winter morning and my mitts are so cold it feels like they’re going to become affixed to the steering wheel. All I want to do is turn the car heater to full whack, but, to my frustration, I can’t…
This is the scenario I endured a few weeks ago when driving a Nissan Juke to the Which? office. I imagine some of you are already assuming that this was the result of either a fault with the card or my incompetence – well, you’re wrong.
The real cause of these highly irritating events was inadequate and inconceivably poor in-car tech design. I’ll explain.
I’m losing control!
The Juke, a compact crossover between a supermini and an SUV, has two central dashboard screens: one displaying the optional sat nav and entertainment features, the other showcasing some (rather useless) driving data. The latter passes judgement on how efficiently you’re driving in eco mode and how much ‘boost’ is being used when in sport mode.
What wasn’t clear was any sort of control for the fan’s power output and direction, despite a dial which appeared to adapt the temperature.
I tried poking through all the on-screen options, rotated the fan-power dial like it was an interior-mounted spin top, and mashed as many buttons as I could set my eyes on; all while trying to concentrate on the road.
After an hour and 50 minutes of angry button punching, I finally discovered that the ‘climate’ button switched the bottom monitor from displaying driving data to showing the fan options. This also changed the names of the buttons surrounding the screen, finally letting me control the fan. Far from intuitive if you ask me.
What happened to ease of use?
Just to support my own perceptions of this crime against usability, I asked fellow members of the Which? Car team to try and make adjustments to the temperature using the same format I faced when getting in the car that morning. Inevitable failure followed.
And it’s not the first time either. It seems every new car I test features updated in-car tech that houses sub-folder after sub-folder of vital controls and information. All of which requires you to concentrate on navigating through settings, rather than focussing 100% on navigating your car! Even turning off the sat nav lady in the latest version of BMW’s iDrive system takes some working out.
To me, it almost feels like the basic controls you use every day are needlessly being hidden away in the depths of complicated new-car ‘infortainment’ systems. The 2001 car I own has an extremely basic dash layout, with all the buttons clearly marked, logically placed and within easy reach to allow quick and effortless adjustments on the move.
It feels to me ease of use in cars is going backwards due to the incorporation of, and advances in, technology. Is all this frustration really a price worth paying for the ‘extra features’ that come with modern in-car gadgets?
Is in-car technology getting too advanced at the expense of usability?
I like extra features, but car makers need to design better interfaces (52%, 71 Votes)
Yes - I get frustrated with all the multiple menus and options (39%, 54 Votes)
No - I feel more in control with all the extra features (9%, 12 Votes)
Total Voters: 139