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Transportation

Smart Cars: Too Distracting? 180

Posted by Soulskill
from the yes-it-keeps-beeping-at-me-when-i-try-to-catch-a-quick-nap dept.
Taco Cowboy writes "The vehicles we drive are getting smarter and smarter, as more and more gadgets are being crammed into them. But as those devices creep into the driving experience, they offer the driver an increasing number of displays to monitor. Thus, drivers are more distracted than ever. At the recent 'Connected Car Expo,' which was held in Los Angeles, panelists discussed how these smart car features can impair driving ability. For example, researchers led by Bruce Mehler at MIT revealed that drivers using voice command interfaces to control in-car navigation systems or USB-connected music devices can end up spending longer with their eyes off the road than those using conventional systems. You'd think being able to operate it by voice alone would be beneficial compared to older radio systems. (Tuning an older radio was used as a baseline task in these tests.) But according to Mehler, problems arise when the system needs clarification of what the driver wants, which often happens while they're trying to feed an address into a navigation system."
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Smart Cars: Too Distracting?

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  • by Ateocinico (32734) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:12AM (#45659445)

    I dreamed of a custom computer system for my car. After just installing the video screen and audio system, I realized exactly that: you either drive or you manipulate the gadgetry. Let's put the intelligence where it belongs in a car: under the hood. Or go for a self driving car Google style.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:22AM (#45659499)

      Self driving car like Google's?

      No. See, when I was testing one, it kept taking me to places where it thought I would be interested in - places that paid Google for ads.

      So, instead to my destination, the Google car took me to McDonald's, then to Penny's and lastly to HomeDepot for their big sale.

      The really scary part was when it got on the Interstate to take me to Amazon because they have some online Christmas thing going on. That would have been a long drive since I'm on the East Coast.

      There were also these black SUVs that always seemed to know where I was going, too.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:32AM (#45659547)
        Yeah, adding the ``I'm feeling lucky'' button perhaps wasn't the best idea - we'll fix it in the next release of our car!

        Regards,
        Automotive Engineering Team
        Google Inc.
      • by TonyJohn (69266) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @01:50PM (#45661709) Homepage

        Self driving car like Google's?

        No. See, when I was testing one, it kept taking me to places where it thought I would be interested in - places that paid Google for ads.

        So, instead to my destination, the Google car took me to McDonald's, then to Penny's and lastly to HomeDepot for their big sale.

        That sounds a lot like my experience of the tuk-tuks in Bangkok.

    • by jimbobborg (128330) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @10:19AM (#45659803)

      I dream of a truly smart car that prevents the drivers from doing stupid shit while driving, like making that left turn in front of me while I'm riding my motorcycle.

    • I don't know how you think we're going to get a good thread going when you've injected common sense right into the first post. ~Clumsy Segue~ But, how about that Google route selection process if it works out? Surely the advertisers will pay more than $.0005 for a drive by.
    • Or go for a self driving car Google style.

      You mean a self driving car that leaves a trail of bread crumbs for the NSA and stops at every drive-through on the way home?

  • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:16AM (#45659459) Journal
    One thing auto makers can do is bring back old-school dashboards with tactile buttons laid out in a distinct, logical way. My last two cars (a Peugeot and a Toyota) had this. Once you knew the layout of the dashboard, you could operate anything by feeling your way around, without ever taking your eyes off the road. My current car (a Volvo) has tactile buttons, but they are laid out in a grid, so it's harder to figure out what function it's for. The rental car I had the other day had a touch screen with the crappiest menu structure ever, operating anything on that required close attention and taking your eyes off the road. Not good.
    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:23AM (#45659507)

      user interfaces have gotton very shitty since a lot of it is outsourced and foreign designers have a 'grid' mentality (to save cost as the ONLY thing they care about).

      look at most guis, also. grids of buttons. they don't often stray from a matrix style of rows and columns. blech! there's no navigation ability (to find the button you want, quickly) when its all just anonymous style rows and cols.

      I always vary my gui designs and try to make each screen very unique and easy to quickly ID.

      when I build hardware, I vary the layout and use diff size and shape buttons and the more important ones are bigger and never near the dangerous ones (how many times have you seen a quit button next to a very important button, with a small mouse slip its easy to make a BIG mistake).

      gui layout is an art form but we give it to 'mechanical' style people (ie, robot thinking) and for manuf costs, we mostly go with grid layouts; which is really working against us, for human factors usability.

      finally, programmers won't commit to a set of features and they are also lazy. look at android. so many apps keep changing their layout. they dont' CARE if the user just learned the previous layout, they want change for change sake; and also because they were in such a rush to get something out, they have not taken enough time to think about what long-term buttons should be there and how to keep them stable from release to release (same location, color, shape and away from other 'dangerous' buttons that you don't want to hit by accident).

      on the side, I design and build hardware (audio gear and test equip gear) and all of my designs use hardware buttons and I think long and hard before I pick a layout. once I do, I stick with it and the goal is to have the gear still be around and useful 20 or more years later. almost no one has that goal anymore - what a shame.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        user interfaces have gotton very shitty since a lot of it is outsourced and foreign designers have a 'grid' mentality (to save cost as the ONLY thing they care about).

        look at most guis, also. grids of buttons. they don't often stray from a matrix style of rows and columns. blech! there's no navigation ability (to find the button you want, quickly) when its all just anonymous style rows and cols.

        I always vary my gui designs and try to make each screen very unique and easy to quickly ID.

        when I build hardware,

    • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:33AM (#45659553)

      One thing auto makers can do is bring back old-school dashboards with tactile buttons laid out in a distinct, logical way.

      That's the kind of thing aircraft manufacturer's understood a long time ago. When they switched to "glass cockpits" they actually did serious ergonomic design and testing. That's why many key controls are still of the sort you mention, and some critical functions still use old-fashioned "analog" (really electro-mechanical) displays and whatnot. Even before they went to glass cockpits aircraft designs involved serious ergonomic design/testing. Part of it is that the greater complexity of aircraft, and the more advanced instrumentation compared to cars, forced them to confront this problem a long time ago. Part of it though is the aircraft industry has these eccentric ideas about making things functional and useful. With cars it's "look at the pretty lights - marketing will love this".

      • That's why my standard example for ergonomic design is a cockpit: Even with that overwhelming number of buttons, leversand displays and whatnots, there is one simple rule: 1 button = 1 function

        In theory, you can control everything with three buttons: select, confirm, back/up/exit (like most computer monitors do; select up/down is a bonus) and many designers tell us that cleaner interfaces are simpler to use. But compare changing the picture brightness on an old fashioned CRT knob to finding your way through

      • The main reason for ergonomics in aircraft cockpits isn't so much due to complexity as it is due to the large number of crashes caused by seemingly insignificant layout flaws... like putting an autopilot disengage switch near a foot rest, an important indicator falling into a blind spot, similar indicators getting confused with something else, bad lighting causing control positions to get misread, etc. So they need to find the best spot for everything to reduce strain on pilots and potential for pilot error

    • by Shavano (2541114) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:46AM (#45659623)

      Exactly this. With a touch screen you MUST look at the device to command it. There's no alternative. With voice commands, they get triggered by conversation. (This happened to my in-laws when they were on the phone with my wife.) Or they could get triggered by audio coming over your radio. Imagine what happens when an ad for Burger King comes on the radio and they direct everybody to the nearest restaurant!

      This needs to become part of law and driving instructions. Fiddling with any kind of touch screen when in a driving lane needs to be against the law.

      • by Ksevio (865461)
        With voice commands, the trigger command just needs to be unique enough (see Google's "OK Google"), but the larger problem is people either have to memorize the command or the car needs to read all the possible commands which could take a while.
      • Most voice command systems I've ever seen (with the exception of Kinect and "OK Google") use some sort of button trigger before it will accept a command. Also, in cars, voice command systems will mute the radio when in "voice command mode".

      • by doom (14564) <doom@kzsu.stanford.edu> on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @11:49AM (#45660545) Homepage Journal

        This needs to become part of law and driving instructions. Fiddling with any kind of touch screen when in a driving lane needs to be against the law.

        I have a suggestion, instead of creating a new law to cover each new gadget that someone invents, why don't we invent a single category, like say, "distracted driving" and actually enforce it?

        And if you don't want people using the features the manufacturer is putting in the car, maybe we could have some laws targeting the manufacturer... or how about we reduce corporate liability shields to the point where the manufacturer begins to worry that their products are killing people?

      • by LoRdTAW (99712)

        Or how about the touch screen disables itself until the vehicle is at a full stop. My friends father had a Lexus hybrid crossover which did just that. When the vehicle was moving a message displayed that the screen was disabled. You had to stop to enter an address into the nav system or make a change.

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          That leads to people jumping off at green lights so that they race as fast as they can and slam on the breaks at the next light, giving them time to type in the address while stopped at the red.

          The "Safety" features in car computers are great examples of the law of unintended consequences. They generally make driving far more dangerous than if they just let people use the device.
      • Fiddling with any kind of touch screen when in a driving lane needs to be against the law.

        It is - it's called 'driving without due care and attention'.

    • Oh god yes. I rented a Toyota a couple of weeks ago with some entirely touch interface. Usually I escape the sort of full-touch vehicles since rentals are always base models without the fancy upgrades, but now base models are starting to have this stuff.

      The Rav4 was an otherwise decent vehicle, but they managed to make even controlling the radio a huge pain in the ass. The touchscreen was not easy to use, couldn't be used without looking (I rent a lot of cars, and have yet to meet a real-button radio th

    • Buttons vs Touch screens? I must be really ancient, because I still hate the replacement of Knobs with Buttons. There is nothing more user-friendly than a rotating volume control knob you can reach for in the dark without taking your eyes off the road, vs. finding a little button and hoping it's not set to the wrong mode.

      Oh and while I'm at it, what's the deal with the "fade-in" response volume control knobs where when you turn up the volume, it only increases a half-second later? Give me the old-fash

  • by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:19AM (#45659481)

    What's with all the anti-tech posts lately? We're supposed to be technology for technologies sake! Drive me to distraction, I want radar, a HUD, ten different kinds of TV, wireless internet, porn, inflatable sexbots

    Let the mundanes worry about the safety crap.

    • by MRe_nl (306212)

      I have all that stuff in my mothers basement, but she's been trying to explain that building it into a 1200 pound 100 mph machine and sharing the road with others while driven to distraction might be viewed as "anti-social" or even "sociopathic", and I'm like whatever mom. Maybe you could have a word with her?

    • by captbob2002 (411323) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:36AM (#45659567)

      My current car (2005 Pontiac Bonneville GXP) and prior car (1999 Bonneville SSE) both have/had HUDs - Love 'em. My mom's 2011 Camaro also has a HUD. Speed (and engine RPM in the Camaro) are shown constantly. High beam and turn indicators illuminated when active. A "Check gauges" Warning when idiot light on or gauge amiss. The two newer cars also show limited radio/song information but only when user is changing settings.

      I have really grown use to being able to seeing my speed without having to drop my eyes from the road. Shame these devices are not available in more cars. My 78 year old mom is so used to having a HUD in the car that she didn't want to buy a new car without one.

      • HUD's realy need to be standard, love mine in 2000 grand prix gtp. Even a GPS near the A pillar is pretty good at not changing my focus to much but the hud is near perfect.

    • I was just thinking that this "smart technology" acts like a useful intelligence test: anyone who actually tries to use it while driving is clearly too stupid to be driving (or do anything else). We could improve the state of humanity quite a bit if we executed people who think they can drive while texting. The trouble is you can only use that trick once, after that they'd probably modify their behavior, and you'd have to think of some other way of identifying them in the next generation.

    • You can be a Luddite, a fool, or a smart user of technology.

      Heck, I just bought a new radio (one with bluetooth linking capability) for my car (one with power "assisted" everything but none of this all-electronic nonsense where you can't feel the road) and it was actually non-trivial to find one that would let me set the color to red (rhodopsin comes in handy at night) and also would let me turn off the dancing light show visualizer on the music.

      I did find one (thanks Pioneer), but the point is there are s

      • I'm not sure who is saying they don't want autopilots for their cars, I definitely do. Certainly no one who is driv.. I mean parking in traffic for hours. I fully willing to trust a computer to move me at 5 mph, stop and go, for 45 minutes while I get work done. I understand some people like to drive their cars recreationally, but I can't imagine that city driving is a place anyone wants to do that. A manual transmission in gridlock traffic seems like punishment incurred by offending a lesser deity. Chauffe

  • by zAPPzAPP (1207370) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:21AM (#45659489)

    If the system needs clarification and this requires the driver to inspect the screen, isn't that a problem with the implementation?

    Clarification should be requested and should be given in voice alone.

    Anything else defeats the purpose of the voice interface, doesn't it?

    • Yes, it does defeat the purpose, but sometimes we need to know the current state of something in order to issue a new command. So you might not know what radio station your tuner is currently set to so you'd have to look down at the radio. Or you want to adjust the temperature/fan/defogger settings so you'd have to look down to see what the current settings are. I suppose you could have something like, "Car, what is the current vent setting?", reply, "The current vent setting is open for the driver side foo
      • by zAPPzAPP (1207370)

        You are joking, but that is pretty much what I'd expect from a working voice command interface (minus the misunderstandings!):
        To be able to make conversation about the narrow field of $device_purpose.

        So yes, a voice operated radio should be able to tell me what radio station I am listening to.
        And it should understand common keywords that have to do with music, news, sound and such things.

      • You want system status? Just press both flippers for 5 seconds.
        • And what, listen to the car read off the current status for dozens of different systems in the car?

          Have you ever called a company (maybe a bank) and gotten that "Press 1 for .... Press 2 for ... Press 9 for ..." or "Say the name of the person or department you're trying to reach?" and three menus in forgotten what you were calling for in the first place? That's kind of how I picture that kind of a system working.

          Sounds more distracting that just having it posted as a visual interface near where you're
          • So I guess a HUD pinball game is out?
            • No, the only thing that should be displayed on the HUD are system status. It should not have the ability to load apps from third party sources, and manufactures that make use of it should not have app stores, this is ONLY for car systems. It's not a toy, and hacking the HUD to do other things should be the equivalent to illegally modifying your vehicle, like removing the brakes or taking out the speedometer. I don't know about other places, but in Nova Scotia we have regulations that govern how a person can
  • by Webcommando (755831) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:28AM (#45659523) Homepage Journal

    Some of the distraction I find in my "smart car" features are due to poor user experience--location of hard buttons, layouts on screen of information or touch buttons ,and quality of speech recognition. From the article:

    Voice activated systems in newer radio systems would seem to offer an advantage over older car radios of keeping the drivers eyes on the road. (Indeed, tuning an older radio was used as a baseline task in these tests.) But according to Mehler, problems arise when the system needs clarification of what the driver wants

    It's the clarification that is the problem, not that it is voice activated (i.e. user experience). I find this with Siri when I'm driving (using built-in blue tooth to integrate it like a "smart" car function) when trying to listen to or respond to a text using voice. Approximately 1 out of 5 times Siri misunderstands a word and I have to change the message. This pulls my attention from driving and I usually give up and wait for a light to try again.

    This is just one example. In dash systems need more work on user experience.

    • by TrekkieGod (627867) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:44AM (#45659615) Homepage Journal

      Voice activated systems in newer radio systems would seem to offer an advantage over older car radios of keeping the drivers eyes on the road. (Indeed, tuning an older radio was used as a baseline task in these tests.) But according to Mehler, problems arise when the system needs clarification of what the driver wants

      It's the clarification that is the problem, not that it is voice activated (i.e. user experience).

      I think it's also important to compare apples to apples. Before navigation systems, what did I use to get someplace I don't know where to get to? A map and/or written directions. Sure, I went over it before I ever got in a car to drive, but as I progress in the route, you often have to double check stuff. Then you find yourself glancing over the map and the piece of paper, grabbing everything when you come to a stop sign or red light, etc. Basically, you're just as distracted.

      Navigation is distracting. Navigation now is less distracting. Both in the past and now, if you have a passenger you should let them navigate / be in charge of messing with the gps.

      • Both in the past and now, if you have a passenger you should let them navigate / be in charge of messing with the gps.

        "Turn left here! Left!"

        "No! Other left!"

        Thanks, I'll navigate for myself.

      • Navigation is distracting. Navigation now is less distracting. Both in the past and now, if you have a passenger you should let them navigate / be in charge of messing with the gps.

        I agree. However, letting my GF navigate while I'm driving has frequently gotten us lost.

  • by grahamm (8844) <gmurray@webwayone.co.uk> on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:31AM (#45659539) Homepage

    Many of these smart systems - such as entering a destination into the navigation system should be made to only work while the vehicle is stationary so as not to distract the driver. It makes sense to input the destination before starting the journey rather than 'on the go'.

    • by vrt3 (62368)

      But the system should make an exception when it senses that there is someone in the passenger seat.

      My previous car dissallowed control of the navigation system while driving, even when there was someone in the passenger seat who was perfectly able to safely control the navigation system. Very frustrating at times.

      • All of our recent cars weigh the passenger (don't tell the ladies) to see if the passenger airbag should be on, so the data is available anyhow.

    • If a driver wants to get distracted, it will take more than a touch-interface lock-out to stop them from doing so... and looking at the GPS map even if you cannot interact with it already counts as a distraction on its own merits.

      Changing channel or track on the car's radio is not illegal yet is still one of the most common causes of rear-endings.

  • Or how about just install a decent intelligent voice system/menu. Every car system I've ever used has been crap-tastic. "Call Dave", you said "Call Carl, calling carl...ring.. ring. ", Crap (press cancel), "Main menu, what would you like to do". (press cancel). "Calling Carl.. ring ring."..

    • by cellocgw (617879)

      Every car system I've ever used has been crap-tastic. "Call Dave", you said "Call Carl, calling carl...ring.. ring. ", Crap (press cancel)

      Hey, if you really don't want to call me, then quit Liking me on Facebook!
      (yes, my name *is* Carl)

  • This story should have been filed under "Duh!" or "Obviously" or "Didn't anyone stop and think about this first?"

  • Yes, I know how that is...you try to get it to plot a course to nearest Best-Buy while you're out in an unfamiliar neighborhood, but you have to check or it'll route you to the Best Buy headquarters 4 states away (or something innane). I wouldn't want the navigational system to start giving me directions without confirming that it had locked on to the address that I REALLY wanted to go to.

  • by bradley13 (1118935) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:46AM (#45659627) Homepage

    It all comes down to user interface design. A good interface will grab you attention only when it has something important to say. And it will avoid false warnings. A lousy interface *is* distracting. So is an interface that screws up, by grabbing your attention with incorrect or irrelevant information.

    Just as an example: my current car has a very distracting audible and visual warning when it detects ice on the road. The problem is: this warning delivers 99% false positives (in fact, it seems to be triggered simply by the thermometer crossing a temperature threshold (3C), in either direction). So - yes - it is a dangerous distraction. However, if the manufacturer had actually gotten it right, it would have been very valuable.

    As far as issuing commands, it is really the same thing: poor design. Is the interface reliable enough that you can trust it to do what you say? Does it give positive confirmation, or leave you wondering?

    • Mine does that as well. You get to hear a chime and something is flashing on the dash and when you look it it telling you that it is cold and thus there might be ice on the road . On my car it happens any time it is at or below 37F so at this point it has become something I completely ignore. My thought with that stupid warning is of course it is cold out I just got in my car from being in that same weather. Had they been smart about it they could have had the parameters such that if after 10 minutes of dri
    • Just as an example: my current car has a very distracting audible and visual warning when it detects ice on the road. The problem is: this warning delivers 99% false positives (in fact, it seems to be triggered simply by the thermometer crossing a temperature threshold (3C), in either direction). So - yes - it is a dangerous distraction. However, if the manufacturer had actually gotten it right, it would have been very valuable.

      Opel/Vauxhall or other GM brand?

      I alweays had the feeling the engineers only included this because they could add another feature to the ads without adding any new hardware. There is no use in a warning light if it becomes NORMAL between November and Febuary. THANK YOU, I KNOW IT'S WINTER!

    • Prompting the user with wrong or irrelevant information also conditions to user to ignore the information, making the prompt useless for the times the information is actually relevant.
  • I've been looking at some of these in-car infotainment systems for the last couple of years thinking they'd be as bad as a smartphone.

    I've always thought the push to the connected car would be more of a distraction, and not something I'd personally want to be operating while driving the car.

    Cadillac recently was running a commercial saying essentially "our car has more buttons than yours" because of the digital console. And my first thoughts were "great, I'd never find anything".

    I'm on the wrong side of 40

  • by nimbius (983462) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:59AM (#45659693) Homepage
    smart cars, connected cars that is, are regular cars with more gadgets and gizmos. cars that check email, report weather, play pandora and such are a recent development of course, and not one i may add that many drivers care for. Some argue they exist as a marketing effort to spur millenials to purchase automobiles. As a millenial myself, and one with an automobile that gladly interfaces with my phone to play pandora radio, I can confirm the marketing effort is misplaced.
    what executives and marketing C-levels dont understand is that boomers drove because it was still fun. gas was inexpensive, income was plentiful to afford a car and its upkeep, and the novelty of road trips was still something most americans found fascinating and entertaining. Gen Xers piled their kids into SUV's for the ego stroke and gas, while not expensive, was still relatively affordable but something else changed. Traffic was becoming universally abhorrent. the much adored culdesac street planning mandate from the sixties had snarled it for miles and government budgets began to resemble holocaust victims to such a degree that potholes capable of puncturing a tire became commonplace on most commutes. the Xers responded by buying larger SUV's like the H2 and turning up the 20 speaker stereo to drown out the din of the crumbling pavement on their way to the cube farm.

    fast forward to the millenials of today. the economic collapse of 2008 has caused most governments to send their highway planning divisions packing as their budgets turn tits up. highways and byways now look more like Reuters photos of bombed out occupied zones. Gasoline is so expensive as to make a road trip a punchline, and traffic congestion models the zombie apocalypse flicks we've glued ourselves to for the last 5 years. whats worse is most of the millenials you see today are falling apart under the weight of their college loans and an average wage thats declined precipitously for 30 years under the guise of free market capitalism. "a new car" for most millenials is a used SUV from a gen-Xer who just had to sell it to make the mortgage gestapo leave them alone for another week. factoring its voraceous appetite for gas, its high mileage, and its mad-max driver, all we've scored is a time-bomb with eddie bauer seats. So lets address the C-levels now...you want to sell us a new, tiny car with lots of gizmos and great gas mileage for less than 20k and while we applaud the offering we still can barely afford, the roads still suck and the insurance is only slightly less expensive than our education loans. Thank you no, the idea smacks of stupidity.

    I can take the bus for a fraction of the cost of owning a car. I dont care if it takes 45 minutes because I have a smart phone, or tablet. im connected to all my friends, including the one im going to meet up with for drinks and dinner. my phone will warn me about making my stop, and let me recharge the fare on my card while i leave the driving to a competent, qualified and much more seasoned bus driver. i dont have to pay insurance, worry about parking, fret about the cost of gas, or earn a ticket for speeding

    to put it quite simply: stop trying to sell me a $30,000 iphone case with wheels.
    • I can take the bus for a fraction of the cost of owning a car. I dont care if it takes 45 minutes because I have a smart phone, or tablet. im connected to all my friends, including the one im going to meet up with for drinks and dinner. my phone will warn me about making my stop, and let me recharge the fare on my card while i leave the driving to a competent, qualified and much more seasoned bus driver. i dont have to pay insurance, worry about parking, fret about the cost of gas, or earn a ticket for speeding

      to put it quite simply: stop trying to sell me a $30,000 iphone case with wheels.

      They obviously aren't trying to sell a "$30,000 iphone case with wheels" to you because you, obviously, are not their target market. Either you are not interested in owning a car, based on your post, or you do want to own a car but are just annoyed that you haven't reached the point where you can afford a moderately priced new car (i.e. $30K).

      As for the rest of your screed, all of these things are just part of owning a car, much like house taxes are part of owning a house. You do realize that you can get

  • I recently drove a family member's "smart car" and tried to change the GPS destination in mid trip. The voice control kept misinterpreting the address, requiring me to choose from an onscreen menu full of wrong choices. Eventually I gave up on the voice control and tried to have a passenger enter it in manually while I continued to drive in the general direction of our destination. However, the car refused to take manual input while it was in motion despite the fact that the input was coming from a passe
    • I recently drove a family member's "smart car" and tried to change the GPS destination in mid trip. The voice control kept misinterpreting the address, requiring me to choose from an onscreen menu full of wrong choices. Eventually I gave up on the voice control and tried to have a passenger enter it in manually while I continued to drive in the general direction of our destination. However, the car refused to take manual input while it was in motion despite the fact that the input was coming from a passenger. Even worse, once the car started moving, it erased all of the information that had been entered up until that point! That meant pulling over on a busy road or frantically typing it in at a red light while trying to get the address in before the light turned green. What should have been a simple process that could be done while the car was in motion turned out to a be a very frustrating and distracting experience because the car thought it was smart.

      Hey, wanna scare the crap out of yourself?

      Imagine this guy is a commercial airline pilot.

      "Well, I've never flown one of these kinds of planes before, but no biggie, I'll figure out the controls as we go along."

      • Are you suggesting mandatory training simulators for operating car navigation systems? Or are you insinuating that I'm somehow incompetent because I attempted to use a GPS in mid trip? If that's the case, then you're a fool who jumps to conclusions because I already knew how to get to my destination and the GPS was just a failsafe in the event that I took a wrong turn since it had been a while since I made the trip. Either way, chill out on the internet insults. They may be easy since they're semi-anony
        • Are you suggesting mandatory training simulators for operating car navigation systems? Or are you insinuating that I'm somehow incompetent because I attempted to use a GPS in mid trip?

          I'm saying, specifically, that it would be utterly terrifying if commercial airline pilots engaged in that kind of behavior: you took it personally for reasons only you could know.

          You taking your eyes off the road to fiddle with a GPS could, at most, kill the handful of people around you. A pilot flying a 747 with his head up his ass could kill a shitload of people, and cause massive amounts of property damage, depending on where he crashes.

          chill out on the internet insults.

          You need to 'chill out' on the emotional responses. FYI, that wasn'

          • you took it personally for reasons only you could know.

            I took it personally because you said "Imagine this guy is a commercial airline pilot." (emphasis mine). Personal insult aside, you're comparing apples to oranges. Of course piloting an airplane for the first time carries more risk, and thus different training requirements and safety precautions, from driving a car on a previously travelled route.

            You taking your eyes off the road to fiddle with a GPS could, at most, kill the handful of people around

            • you took it personally for reasons only you could know.

              I took it personally because you said "Imagine this guy is a commercial airline pilot." (emphasis mine).

              And? Are you trying to say that the idea of an airline pilot who doesn't know everything about flying the plane before take-off isn't a terrifying proposition? Because I would disagree with that.

              Of course piloting an airplane for the first time carries more risk,

              Which is probably why professional pilots RTFM and know what they're up against before hopping into the cockpit and putting thousands of lives at risk. Granted, drivers are slightly less risky if only by virtue of the fact that they're not cruising 30,000 feet above populated areas, but that's no excuse for not know

              • Well played. I guess the thing I will take away from this is that it's probably best to keep my ego in check to avoid making emotionally-charged comments that draw the conversation away from technical ideas and toward personal differences. Doing otherwise wouldn't make me feel good about myself.
                • Well hey, you're showing humility, which already puts you miles ahead of the vast majority of Internet Tough Guys.

                  I admit, I can get pretty wound up in these threads myself, but part of the reason I like Slashdot is that this crowd is usually pretty good at setting aside emotion and basing arguments on logic. Usually.

                  We lose that aspect of the community, and this might as well be the comments page for Yahoo! News.

                  TL;DR - no worries, mate - we all have sacred cows.

  • You'd think being able to operate it by voice alone would be beneficial compared to older radio systems.

    No I wouldn't. Voice control is somewhat like a command line interface. Potentially powerful if you are already proficient at it but inscrutable if you aren't already well trained. Furthermore there is no standardization between vehicles. Unlike buttons and steering wheels which are well standardized, voice interfaces have no such commonality between automakers. Each vendor rolls their own. This makes it basically impossible for me to just hop in any random car and do useful tasks. Furthermore few peo

  • In-car record Player [uaw-chrysler.com]

    From there:

    There were a few problems with the idea of a car player that needed to be solved - besides simply keeping the needle on the record. One of them was safely operating the unit while driving.

    The player had to be small, so the 7-inch size of the 45-rpm record was ideal; but using 45s would have meant changing the record every few minutes, a little risky at highway speeds. To solve that problem, 7-inch records for the player were produced in the new 16 2/3-rpm format (ultra-

  • My most recent vehicle purchase was a Toyota Tacoma. Because I needed a truck, and I wanted a stick shift. The truck has no optional features at all. The nice thing is, there is almost nothing that needs fiddling with. Simple gauges. A nice but easy to control radio. No funny collections of buttons. Not even electric door locks or window controls.

    Also no cruise control, but it seems like a small price to pay for having a truck that is otherwise simple, reliable and doesn't suck fuel like a three year

  • But according to Mehler, problems arise when the system needs clarification of what the driver wants, which often happens while they're trying to feed an address into a navigation system.

    Which is why every GPS system I've ever used starts off with a disclaimer that tells you not to program the thing while you're driving. I travel for a living so the choice isn't whether I want a screen or not. It's whether the GPS is telling me directions out loud or I'm trying to read them off a piece of paper when I'm d

  • The worst is the lack of tactile inputs on the console because everyone wants to look 'futuristic!'. You can't just reach over and turn the radio off because you can't find the knob w/o looking. It's dangerous, and stupid. Put the physical dials back.
  • My car navigation system and "infotainment" system locks out certain seemingly random features while the car is in motion. For example, you can change Bluetooth devices while the car is in motion but you cannot sync a new device to the system. I did not know this. I found it incredibly distracting to try to figure out what the hell was wrong with the system while driving, and I wasn't even the one trying to use the system.

  • by andyring (100627) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @11:41AM (#45660453) Homepage

    I'm with most of the commenters here. We have a small fleet of company cars (5). We recently upgraded them as our existing vehicles, despite being 2008 models, were around 350k miles. Anyway, I evaluated a Ford Focus and hated it. The whole darn thing was a computer, or so it seemed. I want my employees focusing on the ROAD, not the vehicle gadgets. We ended up going with 2013 Honda Civics after my boss got involved because he's friends with the salesman. Even those are very sucky. The menu interfaces are total crap, make no sense, even to the point of feeling counterintuitive. The salesman I worked with kept touting "it's got Bluetooth, bluetooth, bluetooth" until he was practically blue in the face. I told him "Bluetooth whatever. How do I turn off all this shit?" He looked dumbfounded.

    I don't need some distracting info graphic to tell me a door is open. If a car is smart enough to tell me a tire is low, tell me WHICH DAMN TIRE. And if I want to turn on the radio, let me turn a little dial in the middle of the front console area, not some generic plus-minus button on a steering wheel that does different things every time I touch it. Otherwise I end up being frustrated with the stupid thing and not focusing on driving safely.

  • ..is a perfect example of selective perception.
  • What if some evil person decides to rip songs, encode it but add "Car! Set Cruise Speed 90 mph" in it? Some unsuspecting driver plays that song, and suddenly the car starts zooming up. Or if they are listening to some audio book or some play or movie, and the dialog goes like, "Car! Enable Developer Mode! Car Enable Crash Mode! Car! Disable brakes".

    And the car obeys these commands in these voice stream! These voice enabled car controls are dangerous. They should be banned.

  • ... then the problem would be solved. Next, the only thing I'll want is for the car to wake me up when the destination has been reached.

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