Sunday, February 22, 2009

M364 Block 1, Unit 1, Activity 4

Now go and look at your car dashboard (or that of a friend or colleague). List three aspects of the different controls which might distract you or make driving the car more difficult. Alternatively, if you do not drive, ask someone who does drive about their experiences of driving and the ways in which the controls on their car can cause difficulties.
The Toyota Prius has a somewhat idiosyncratic interface design. Both the gear selector (there is no manual option) and the parking brake have been moved from between the seats, making room for a handy storage bin. The gear selector is on the dashboard, and the parking brake has mutated from the traditional hand-lever to a (left) foot-pedal. But these are totally obvious changes that, as a new Prius driver, you have to deal with as soon as you sit at the wheel, and I really don't see them as distracting or troublesome.

For me, the three most questionable aspects of the Prius interface design are:
  1. The gear selector has three obvious settings, "R", "N" and "D" (Reverse, Neutral and Drive, for those unfamiliar with automatics). It also has a fourth option, "B". I truly don't know what this is for, or what would happen if I accidentally engaged "B" instead of "D".
  2. In common with many cars, a single (right-hand) steering column stalk is used to control both front and rear wipers. I sometimes find myself having to think about how to use this control, and can imagine circumstances involving unexpected surface water, or overtaking long vehicles in rain, where this could be a problem.
  3. The Prius also has a central graphical display panel with four large buttons, two on either side. The two that get used regularly (Climate and Audio) are on the passenger's side, across the central divide, and I think would be less distractingly placed on the driver's side. [This may be an artifact of us Brits driving on the wrong side of the road and sitting on the wrong side of the car, but since the Japanese share this particular eccentricity I'm still puzzled]
Granting myself the self-indulgence of diverging from the question - permissible, I hope, since these activities are set but unmarked - I would say that the ID of the Prius is well-aligned with both the engineering and the marketing of the product, as a vehicle that is different, but for good reasons.

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