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Those unintended consequences of usability improvements

Both my Jeep Wrangler and Toyota iQ introduced usability improvements that have some unfortunate consequences.

When I switch my Jeep off, its headlights remain on for about 30 seconds. Presumably this was done under the assumption that you’d appreciate the lights in a dark garage, as you make your way to the door.

While that may be nice for people in North America living in big homes with garages, it has had the following consequences for me:

  • Hardly an instance of public parking goes by without some bystander shouting to me, “Hey buddy, you left your lights on!”, after which I feel obligated to explain that, “it’s a feature”.
  • I’m never quite sure myself whether I actually turned the lights off or not. And so, inevitably, I end up delaying my departure from the vehicle for the 30 seconds or so it takes to confirm that the lights are actually off. (And you can imagine that bystanders find that—a guy staring at his car, with its lights on—equally odd.)

The Toyota has a key-less entry system such that if I’m simply in proximity of the car, and in possession of the key, the doors will automatically unlock if I attempt to open them. While nice, it makes confirming that the doors are actually locked a bit difficult.

Here’s how that usually works:

I get out of the car and lock the driver-side door. Then I try to open the door, to confirm that it’s locked. But because I’m physically near the car and in possession of the key, the door automatically opens. With a sigh, I lock it again, walk away from the car, and then ask somebody else to try to open the door.

(My friend’s Volkswagen solves this problem by additionally retracting the side mirrors, allowing you to visually confirm that the car is locked.)

The Toyota has some other irritations, like sounding the seatbelt alarm when I place my computer bag in the passenger seat. But I think that’s more related to regulations, than attempts at improving automobile usability.

Published inDesign

One Comment

  1. Ian Goos Ian Goos

    Our BMW 328i unlocks based on proximity combined with placing your hand on either side front door handle. You can also use the key fob but I rarely need to. Locking is done with a little touch area also on the door handles. I rather like the design of this.

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