In theory, advanced technology is supposed to make people’s lives easier. (Hence the word “advanced.”) But there are so many instances where that isn’t true — from computer software upgrades to cell phones that make it difficult to actually call someone.
The same is true for automobiles. It’s abundantly clear that ergonomics has not yet caught up with modern bells and whistles, and that can lead to a lot of aggravation for drivers and passengers. Here are some of the eight most common annoyances, according to J.D. Power & Associates’ survey of auto buyers.
1. Voice-activated controls. In the 2012 model year, about four out of every five vehicles sold have some sort of hands-free controls. But considerably fewer have voice-activated systems that actually work like they’re supposed to. And when drivers issue a voice command and the car doesn’t seem to understand or hear it, the drivers get frustrated. They might as well be talking to their spouses.
2. Navigation screens. Some of them are too small. Others have illegible type. Still others have confusing menus or counterintuitive controls. The result? Drivers are so busy trying to figure out where they’re going that they aren’t actually watching where they’re going. More distracted driving — just what auto insurance companies want.
3. No one-touch window closure. It’s a little thing, but it can be aggravating. Want to roll your window down? A quick finger flick and it moves down automatically. Want to roll it back up? Push the lever and hold it… hold it… hold it some more… Other cars have automatic roll-down and roll-up windows. Why can’t yours?
4. Part automatic, part manual seat adjustments. The same concept holds true with front seat adjustments. Fully manual seats are fine, and so are completely automatic ones. But why the mixture of the two? Who’s the dunderhead who thought, “Let’s let drivers manually tilt their seats, but we won’t let them move it forward or back until they turn on the ignition!”
5. Stereo controls near the gear shifter. Imagine this: you’re about to merge onto a busy freeway, and you want some high-energy tunes. So as you get on the entrance ramp, you try to turn on your stereo… and accidentally shove the gear shifter — which is two inches away — into neutral. That’s the problem with some cars (we’re looking at you, Audi!).
6. No iPod plug-in. Yes, there’s a big Apple vs. non-Apple debate in some parts of the marketplace. But with portable digital music players? Apple wins. Hands down. So if a carmaker doesn’t allow easy plug-in access for an iPod into a car stereo, it’s stuck in the 20th century. Get a clue!
7. Uncomfortable rear seat belt. Evidently, some automakers are unaware that people actually try to sit in their rear seats. (What? You mean rear seats aren’t just for sunshades and maps?) So when the seat belt for rear seat passengers slices into their neck and traps them in a painful position, it really chaps their hide. Literally.
8. No telescoping steering wheel. Believe it or not, there are still some models which don’t allow the driver to move the steering wheel closer to them or further away (*cough* “Jeep” *cough*). So drivers must either rest their chin on the horn or execute some semi-yoga stretch in order to operate the vehicle. Fabulous.