• Jul 17, 2006
Bill Howard reviews a new vehicle each week for the website, TechnoRide. While most people envy this aspect of his job, he points out that driving so many vehicles exposes him to flaws and foibles that generate responses ranging from "Huh?" to "What were they thinking?" to "Stop the car, I want to get out."
Here are the twelve designs elements that particularly peeved Howard...
  1. Space-wasting ashtrays
  2. Mechanical transmissions
  3. No digital owners' manuals
  4. Bad PDF manuals
  5. No PDF hot links
  6. Dumb button placement
  7. Overly reflective wooden consoles
  8. Nag screens
  9. Where's the Map button
  10. No LCD screen controls
  11. Unintelligent night settings
  12. Dumb speaker systems
Note from JN - We've driven a few media vehicles in our day, and disagree with a few of Howard's criticisms. Ashtrays don't bother us too much anymore, as they're usually pretty small and make great places to stuff wads of paper in a jam. We're guessing Mr. Howard's love of electronics makes him loathe the mechanical, but there's nothing like feeling the components of a good transmission do what you ask. And PDF manuals? Who reads manuals? If I can't figure it out in five minutes, it's a bad design. We're with him on dumb button placements, nag screens, map buttons for nav systems, and pretty much the rest of the list, though.

Related: Technology Overload

[Source: TechnoRide]


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  • 30 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      The article and list are poorly thought out and lame. There was something similar on www.thetruthaboutcars.com late last week about what features are "oversold and useless" that was much better...

      I just wanted to chime in on the auto-tranny bashing. Get over it. Most people can't drive the car to being with, giving them a manual would kill them and whoever they hit. But that's not the only reason for an auto...

      To say that people who drive autos are not 'car people' is ridiculous. It's a choice...and while I'd love to be driving a manual, I don't see that as being a big deal in a luxo sedan. If I was going for a pure sports car, then give me nothing but. And a paddle shifted DSG is the god of transmissions...sticks and clutches will be dead in short order in the wake of VW's DSG...
      • 8 Years Ago
      Who reads manuals? Retard.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I, too, was horrified to see manual transmissions on someone's list of complaints. Although I won't go as some other posters and suggest that *everyone* should be driving a manual, I will say this: if we all drove manuals, I don't think nearly as many motorists would get bored and want to pass the time chatting on the phone.

      Otherwise, I pretty much agree with Howard's gripes. I'll add my personal shit list, and JZeke, maybe you can provide some insight as to why these things are so common.

      - Unlined coin trays and cubbies, so that anything placed within rattles incessantly.

      - Green or blue gauge lighting, rather than red (to optimize night vision).

      - Cupholders directly behind the manual shifter, rather than ahead of or alongside it.

      - Front-end styling that prevents you from seeing the hood or its corners.

      I know, whine, whine, whine. But I'm genuinely curious if I'm missing something.
      • 8 Years Ago
      This is the best a website with a name like 'Technoride' could come up with? How about the nearly complete lack of Techno in cars? 'Car Tech' is an oxymoron.

      Much of the industry is driven by 50+ year old thinking and marketing games. Many of the complaints about the interior of cars is a direct result of the love of primitive mechanics people are expressing.

      A car could easily be modular and personally configurable except for the fact that Car companies are still designing most cars for the 1950s.

      Most car related deaths and injuries are a dirrect result of outdated designs. Having the mechanics of the car in your lap is psychotic. If cars didn't exist and you were starting from scratch to build personal transport a company would never get people into current car designs. They are one step away from designed to kill. The best safety feature the industry has concocted, Airbags are simply a bandaid on a highly flawed concept.

      There is no technical reason you couldn't design a car to be many times safer than the safest car currently on the road and yet be more comfortable, functional and stylish than they are now. And it truly wouldn't cost more.

      "Overly reflective wooden consoles"?? Bill Howard, just walk away walk away and yes you should be ashamed.
      • 8 Years Ago
      After reading his list I have to agree with most all the comments posted here. I would never read his site nor give his opinions any credit.
      • 8 Years Ago
      No mechanical transmissions? So, what, are there new engines in the pipeline that can rev to 200,000 RPM? Fascinating!

      Assuming he meant "manual" transmissions (because transmissions are obviously mechnical, no matter how you control them)...learn how to drive or go around reviewing flowers or something. You don't belong at a car review site. No one who prefers an automatic transmission is a car person, and paddle shifters are for posers. Period.

      As for LCD touch screens, I'm not so much against them as I am against the generally poor design of their software and menu navigation. Really, they need only a few main buttons on one main menu:
      - Stereo (self-explanitory)
      - Ventilation (A/C, Fan & Heat)
      - Settings (basic things like screen sensitivity, etc.)

      And that really need be it - there are no sub menus, it just displays the controls for the selected option. Honestly, no one cares to set the timeout for the interior lights after you shut off the car.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Chryslers haven't come with ashtrays for more than 10 years. They are an "added value" option.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Car designers, an interesting bunch...

      While designers should theoretically be in charge of the whole aesthetic experience of a car -- the way you interact, feel and use the thing -- most are stylists, and paid to stay that way.

      You ask a designer today to work these things out, and usually the hubris of being the "looks" guy means you'll get attitude. Hell i do it all the time, I hate dealing with some of these little issues. You have to fight marketing, and sales and the old guys who run the place on everything. It gets tiring.

      I admit ive let buttons go out in funny places, trim to be a bit too shiny etc, just to get something out the door. All you want to do is hand off the concept to some savvy engineers to work out those details, but honestly, they usually dont care about those things either.

      Heres the thing, most design schools dont TEACH this stuff, I learned it all on the job. I guess thats why im in product development in charge of refinement...
      • 8 Years Ago
      Nothing like driving a good manual transmission and using both arms and legs in the process. Pity that this joy of driving has eluded Mr. Howard.
      • 8 Years Ago
      APK I though that at first as well though I read TFA and he even mentioned "paddle shifters behind the steering wheel for those who feel the need to shift for themselves"

      I left the following comment:
      ----------------------------------
      While a significant appeal of a manual transmission is the ability to control the behavior of the car (actually drive it) and that control is available with shiftable automatics (though some systems provide more control than others) it's not the only reason.

      For me, the #1 reason I'd never consider a car with an automatic transmission, manually shiftable or not, is the power, responsiveness & efficiency (economy) robbing torque converter that automatics are saddled with that has earned them the not-so-affectionate term "slushbox" among many driving enthusiasts.

      Now a sequential manual gear box, even one with an "automatic" mode, I'd be all over that.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Here's a few I'd like to add to the list:
      - Power running boards
      - Power third row seats
      - Power rear lift gates

      Do designers really think most consumers are that lazy, or are their designs so bad that they'll incorporate any gimic to try to differentiate themselves?
      • 8 Years Ago
      - Unlined coin trays and cubbies - you can blame accountants for that one. Only reason you dont line a cubby is cost.

      - Green or blue gauge lighting - Green is almost as good as red for night lighting, some military vehicles use it with red. Blue is a straight up design/marketing conceit; basically blue was the new LED color a few years back, and everyone wanted to have it. Now that its kinda played, im happy with xmas colors myself.

      - Cupholders directly behind the manual shifter - cupholder placement is one of those necessary evils. I hate being asked to place them, but you just got to do it. When you see lousy cupholder placement, someone got lazy. When you see complex cupholders, someone got crazy. If you think about it tho, placing a beverage ahead of the shifter now limits your vertical portion of the center console. Space for trays, HVAC, entertainment is now limited. Its a tradeoff, and since every design is different, locations change accordingly.

      - Front-end styling that prevents you from seeing the hood or its corners - Oops :-P Yea thats what happens when a really good looking design gets the nod over a smart one. I had a honda civic coupe I couldnt see the hood of, I hated that... but i thought the car looked good. But Ferraris, Porsches and my Subaru all have sexy curved hoods that you can see the end of. Call it the battle of good design versus blind style.
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