When you drive down the road you typically don’t have to think about the controls in your vehicle. The shifter has the gearing setup the same in nearly every situation because there is legislation which dictates a specific order for the shifting of gears whether the vehicle be a manual or automatic transmission model. This standardization makes it possible for us to feel comfortable getting into a vehicle and enjoying the drive right away without having to learn a whole new system. This works great for the primary controls such as the steering wheel, pedals and gear selectors, but what about the secondary controls?
As the owner of a vehicle from two domestic manufactures (one GM and one Ford) I find it difficult to remember where all the controls are when I choose to drive one vehicle over the other after having driven one for several days in a row. If the secondary controls were standardized I wouldn’t struggle with where the functions were in my own vehicles, not to mention if I happened to choose to rent a car from an airport or on a trip and the vehicle is not one I have driven it can be difficult to navigate the wide variety of controls.
We have heard and used the term intuitive when it comes to the controls of a vehicle. That typically only means that the controls are placed where a majority of manufactures place them, but not every vehicle is intuitive. What makes this situation worse is the fact that we now have more controls than ever and while the symbols for these controls are standardized (thank you regulations) where they are placed is not. This can be frustrating when you want to have all the driver assistance feature settings the way you want them to be and can’t locate where these features are.
Not only are the secondary controls of a vehicle standardized, we have seen recently many manufacturers moving toward rotary knobs for their automatic transmissions to create more space for the center console, which was getting over crowded. Because you could have a shifter on the steering column, between the front seats or even as a rotary knob and the various buttons to unlock the shifter are different this can be troublesome for a person who needs to figure out how to drive a BMW 3i or a Ford Explorer or a Toyota Tacoma and none of them have the same setup.
If you take a tour across the decades it’s a wonder we don’t require everyone to take at least a two hour class to learn where all the controls are on their new vehicle. There have been high beam button on the floor, horns that are activated by pushing the turn signal in, cruise control buttons everywhere and a variety of locations for the windshield wipers to make it confusing for driving and these are just the basic secondary controls. Please, for the love of all that is fun about driving, these controls need to be standardized in location, operation and style in order to give us the ability to drive every single vehicle without the feeling of learning a whole new vehicle language.