Vehicle Dashboards: How to just design things wrong.

I’ve been lucky/unlucky enough to have driven the following vehicles since over the course of about 4 months:

  • Audi Diesel Automatic A3 2003
  • Ford Transit Diesel Manual XLWB XHR 2015
  • Citroen C4 Grand Picasso Diesel Manual 2007
  • Ford Mondeo Petrol Automatic 2005
  • Toyota Previa Diesel Automatic 1997
  • Citroen C4 Grand Picasso Diesel Manual 2013
  • Citroen C4 Picasso Diesel Automatic 2016
  • Ford S-MAX Diesel Automatic 2016
  • Peugeot 807 Diesel Manual 2003

This wasn’t my plan.

The Van was because I moved house.

The Audi I sold, the first C4 Grand Picasso died so my parents lent me their Mondeo and then their Previa while the C4 was being fixed (many, many thanks for that) – the second C4 Grand Picasso I bought because it turned out the first one couldn’t be fixed.

The Citroen (non-Grand) C4 Picasso was a hire car because a stupid bastard torched my car – but it wasn’t grand enough (or, it didn’t have 7 seats) so I got a different hire car, the S-MAX – which I had for a couple of weeks.

Finally, very generously the family given a Peugeot 807, which shed some light on our months of motoring difficulty.

So whilst the 2 Citroen’s dying was sad, we did get given a car (woohoo!, many many thanks for that too) and I got to drive an S-MAX, which I’ve always wanted.

But the massive, totally annoying problem that I’ve only now realised having driven so many cars recently… is they are all so bloody different.

It’s not because they all look different, not the difference between the manual and auto and petrol and diesel thing, that’s kind of obvious enough to deal with. It’s all the controls for the cars.

I had to start going through a little routine when I got in a car.

  • Where is the hand brake? on the left? on the right? on the dashboard?
  • Is it a button, or a lever? Do I push it or pull it?
  • Wait, do I touch it at all, or does it turn itself off?
  • Do I put the key in? Where is the key? oh it’s in my pocket. no, wrong car, it goes in this hole. It isn’t really a key.
  • Where is the ignition? On the left, or the right? or the dashboard?
  • It’s not starting… why not. Do I have to press some pedals?
  • Headlights… do I turn them on? Wait, they are on, did I do that? Did they turn themselves on?
  • Gears. Clutch. Is there a clutch? Yes there is! How do I make it reverse? Is this a five or six speed?
  • When the reversing sensor things go constant… should I keep going, or stop. Why aren’t they sounding? *BUMP* oh, yeah. This car doesn’t have them.
  • Why the shit are there 2 beeps? Is one the front parking sensor? Or is something about to explode? Or did I just get a text?

Once I’d spent a few seconds patting blank bits of dashboard, stamping on empty carpet and waving my hands through thin air, I’d usually get the car started.

Depending on the car, I’d enjoy or hate the drive. It would range from “Holy crap how much power does a 7 seater need! This S-MAX really is genuine fun to drive” to “WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK ARE CITROEN DOING WITH THIS GEARBOX…IT’S A BRAND NEW CAR AND I THINK IT’S TRYING TO KILL ME! CHANGE! FUCKING! GEA… oh fine now you’ll change, well it’s too late, change back. I’m braking. CHANGE DOWN!”.

Regardless of the pleasure of the drive, there was an equally confusing process when I stopped.

  • OH SHIT, STALLING, CLUTCH DOWN! Right, this one is NOT an automatic.
  • Is the hand brake on? Am I supposed to do it? Which side was it on again?
  • How do I stop the engine? I took the key out, why wont the car lock? Why is the ignition still on… I’m not even in the car
  • Are the headlights on, or is it some weird “get me home lighting”. Will they turn off if they lock it?
  • Why are the interior lights still on? Was that the kids or is it supposed to do that. Is my battery going to go flat?

My biggest fears were I’d forget the hand brake and the car would wonder off (because I’d assumed it would turn itself on or hadn’t seen it because it’s on the wrong side).

Or one of the many lights would drain the battery because again, I’d thought it was some kind of fancy automatic light that should turn itself off.

So my problem is all these controls move, and work differently, or some do stuff themselves so you don’t have to touch them. Others will do things for you, maybe, as long as it’s a Tuesday and you’re not wearing shorts.

No one moves the steering wheel, or the pedals. Why move the handbrake?! Manufacturers should be forced to all agree on the same thing – forced to by law, the EU or something, the W3C, someone global and important.

Basically, the controls should always be in the same place. It’s dangerous moving them all around. It’s distracting, confusing, and it’s probably the cause of global warming or the bees disappearing.

Oh one good point… no handbrake on the floor on the left does mean I can keep even more crap on the floor where the handbrake should be (or used to be on normal cars).

So all manufacturers should do that. Move the handbrake. So I can put stuff there. All of you. Do it. Do it now.

Oh and Citroen, ask Ford how to make an automatic Gearbox. Don’t look at their old ones though, they were bad, I drove a Galaxy that was almost as bad as the C4.

Actually ask Audi. They are good at it. The 2003 Audi A3 worked a treat. Until it broke. Which is why I sold it…

Cars are great.


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