Today’s cars have features that would boggle the mind of folks just a few years ago. The problem is that with all these features, it is becoming more difficult to learn how to operate all these devices.
Engineers face a daunting challenge designing controls to operate all these gadgets that will not distract drivers from their primary task of safely driving the vehicle with minimal distractions. Some designers have accomplished this task very well while others get a failing grade.
This problem is complicated further if the vehicle will be operated by a number of people, many of whom will not be familiar with the controls.
When faced with designing the cockpit controls of a new vehicle, designers have a few standards that must be adhered to, mostly relating to the main controls to drive the car. For instance, the gas pedal, brake pedal, clutch pedal (if applicable), steering wheel and directional switch must be located, and operated the way you expect them to. The High-Low beam control must be on the directional lever.
On automatic transmission vehicles, the shift pattern must be P, R, N, D for Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive. Additional selections, like manual gear control, must come after Drive. This holds whether the shifter is mounted on the steering column or the console or floor.
There is a new transmission control system that has recently been approved that utilizes a small stalk about the size of the directional lever. The stalk might be mounted on the right side of the steering column opposite the directional switch, or mounted on the dash to the right of the wheel. To shift with this system, you would nudge the lever up or down against spring pressure. The lever always returns to the center position. To shift to drive, push the lever down, for reverse, push it up. To engage Park, push the button on the tip of the lever.
Parking Brake: All cars have a parking brake even though it is rarely used on cars with an automatic transmission where the driver has to simply place the transmission selector in Park to keep the vehicle from rolling.
Starting the car has been standardized for many years. You insert the key in the ignition switch and twist it clockwise past spring pressure until you hear the starter motor spin the engine to life. Once the engine is running, you would release the key, allowing it to spring to the run position.
This process is rapidly being replaced by a number of alternative systems.
Let’s move away from the driving controls to the controls that you use often. No, I am not talking about the audio controls, I am talking about the controls to operate the lights and wipers.