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Christian Nimsky's Weblog

Why aren't we focusing on good automotive UI design?

Christian Nimsky

This past weekend Kathy and I took a Cadillac SRX up to Sonoma to get away and just relax a bit.  In my driving impressions I shared my frustration with the fact that Cadillac’s designers intentionally crippled various functions while the vehicle is moving.  That got me to thinking — what are people’s attitudes on driver distraction?  Are these types of design decisions just fear of litigation or is there popular support for such restrictions?

While I haven’t done a comprehensive search I did stumble across a poll conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on their forum members.  I haven’t had time to fully grok it but one stat jumped out at me: 34% of respondents evidently do not own a cell phone

Who are they polling?  The 34% “doesn’t own” figure seems high to me, especially relative to the segment that would buy vehicles with in-car nav, cellphones, On-Star and all that type of stuff.

I’m frustrated that OEMs and even aftermarket companies are taking the low road by restricting functionality instead of elevating the UI usability to a higher level.  Instead they add features, creating more complex menu sequences and then realize that it could be distracting, at which point they disable stuff.  This may be fodder for a deeper post on Straightline - we’ll see if I can find the time to dive into it.