Dear engineers: No more clever gizmos, please

Dear engineers: No more clever gizmos, please http://tinyurl.com/27bbbmu
Every time I make a lane change in a BMW, I feel like an idiot.
It's a blinker thing. When I turn the left indicator off, I somehow
activate the right one. I end up clicking the stalk up and down a half dozen times, not so much announcing a turn as that I'm a schizophrenic tourist with commitment issues.
As it turns out, once a Bimmer blinker is on, you tap the stalk to cancel it rather than pushing it the opposite direction, as in other cars.
Dear engineers: Redesigning the blinker is not clever. It's annoying.
It's one example of idiosyncrasies that drive owners nuts. Every carmaker has wonky design foibles, almost always the case of engineer over-think, lawyer interference or an automaker just not paying attention.
Sometimes it's a matter of poor placement of a control. Mercedes-Benz puts a long column on the left side of the steering wheel that looks like the blinker but is actually the cruise control -- a function I use as often as an electric turkey carver. (The blinker is the less obvious stick just below it.)
To make matters worse, this is no simple cruise control. Mercedes' Distronic Plus maintains a certain distance between you and other cars, even bringing you to a stop in stalled traffic. So after unwittingly turning it on, I feel like I've activated the people-killer Skynet system from the "Terminator" movies.
Next gripe is for the U.S. automakers. We know your phalanx of attorneys are worry-warts, but please stop with all those electronic gongs, beeps and buzzing chimes that come when we open doors, insert keys or don't put our seatbelts on in record time.
My father's 2008 GMC Sierra pickup makes more electronic noises than R2-D2 in "Star Wars." Lucky for dad that his hearing is iffy, as it drove me to the brink. For heaven's sake, I know the door is open -- I'm getting out.
After a week in the Ford Fiesta, I was convinced that Ford put together a focus group to determine the most annoying noises known to man. The less-than-dulcet tones that come with opening a door actually made me nostalgic for the 1980s-era cars which robotically announced, "Your door is ajar."
(Incidentally, the most tolerable auditory alert comes from BMW, a light gong that is musical and Zen.)
If I can afford an expensive car with gobs of power, I don't need GM hovering over me like an overprotective mom. Yet the $64,000, 556-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V Coupe I recently tested will not allow the use of fundamental parts of its navigation system while actually on the move.
In other words, if the wheels are turning, my front-seat passenger cannot program in a destination: The touch-screen commands become inoperable. Sorry, but that's exactly when I need directions -- when I'm lost and actually driving someplace.
Navigation systems are a major source of complaints I get from passengers. The Japanese generally make the best. Within moments of tinkering, you can program in a destination, find a radio station and get moving. Honda's cheap Fit hatchback bests most luxury cars, and the Koreans aren't far behind.
The Germans treat the navigation interfaces like a game of technological one-upmanship, delivering radically different systems such as BMW's inscrutable, first-generation iDrive. Even today, best settle in for a fortnight to learn their operations.
Then there's the British. Drop a huge pile of cash on any Bentley or Aston Martin and you'll end up with fuzzy graphics and an arcane interface which make the original Atari game console seem revolutionary. By these standards, the Brits would never have got off the island to colonize the world.
Speaking of video-game-worthy graphics, the latest hybrids have super snazzy graphics that give too much information, as if we were playing the newest version of "Halo" rather than driving. Most present a complex diagram of the moment-by-moment flow of energy between battery, engine and wheels. A mechanical engineering degree is optional but wouldn't hurt.
You'll get a series of screens to scroll through in your spare time in the new Chevy Volt or Porsche Cayenne Hybrid, so you can parse every ounce of energy usage.
Ford's Fusion Hybrid actually "grows" green leaves on the screen, indicating how efficiently you're driving. It's so pretty! Oh, I'm expected to keep my eyes on the road?
Finally, while American drivers demand a proliferation of cup holders, I'd be happy with a cubby for my cell phone. Car designers must be aware of the omnipresence of mobiles, so is it too much to ask for a simple niche which will hold a smart phone securely and upright, so I can see who is calling? I promise both the attorneys and other drivers that I won't pick it up and text.
I grant that many issues which plague drivers can be solved by one simple solution -- but as far as I'm concerned, reading the owner's manual is only for quitters.
--
Service Guarantees Citizenship

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O.M.G., R.T.F.M.?

One could argue that you should get your mechanical engineering degree and Do It Yourself since you have all of the answers. But keep reading.....

Those Damn Germans. I'll tell ya. I bet the owners manual explains the control stalks though...

Then Don't Use It? Jeez. Sell the Benz, but don't buy a BMW. They have funky turn signals too.

Ford and all of their 'engineers' couldn't figure a way out of a wet paper sack, so this doesn't surprise me. I will Never Ever Buy A Ford. Period. NEBAFP.

ended by inattentive jerkholes in their expensive cars. Put the effin phone and GPS down. If you need to adjust it PULL OFF THE DAMN ROAD and STOP.

car for you whilst you spread grey poupon on your sandwich.

I'm totally down for that. And it should turn said phone off as soon as you set it in the phone cubby so it doesn't ring, or allow you to talk on it while the car is being operated(see above, about the navigation....)

Yeah, I bet you probably think the same about using a torque wrench, proper service tools, proper sealants, and doing the preventative maintenance on your ride, too.
Thanks for the laugh.
Best,
Chris
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Sorry, but you should not have to read the manual for a simple turn signal. The same convention has been used by every car maker for the past 60 years or so. There is absolutely no reason to do it different when something very simple just plain works.
Remember when PRNDL was not standard on every car? Some things are just plain simple. Leave them alone. It is especially critical to have similar operation of basic controls for frequent rental car users. The BMW turn signal makes as much sense as having putting the brake and gas pedals in different positions.
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Ed Pawlowski wrote:

Agreed.
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On 09/21/2010 01:29 AM, Paul wrote:

Hmm, I just recently drove a BMW without reading any manual and had no issues whatsoever other than a short adjustment period to get used to the really light flywheel. The turn signals worked fine.
nate
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Same here. I drove a 2000 BMW M5 a few days ago and it had normal turn signals. And one hell of a lot of power....
Chris
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Maybe they've "improved" the turn signals in the past 10 years? The OP does not mention a model year.
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Perhaps, since when someone in the NGs says they "bought a NEW car" they generally mean a another USED car. When they really mean a NEW car, it was one there mom just bought. ;(

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On 09/22/2010 05:43 AM, Ed Pawlowski wrote:

I dunno, I've found the ergonomics of German cars to have been excellent for decades. My personal "gold standard" of what a column switch should feel/work like has been for years the turn signal switch that was on my '71 914/4 - damn thing felt like it was carved out of a billet of aluminum. It was just one of those little things that made the car feel like it cost a million bucks even though it was an "entry level" sports car.
nate
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I am another who does not like the overgizmofication of automobiles.
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It is pretty similar with telephones.
I like simple telephones so I can be reached and get simple messages.
I do not need to have all kind of games, taking videos and pictures on my telephone.
With a car I need a box on wheels to take me from A to B.
I do not mind what it looks like or what it can do otherwise.
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Then you should love one of those boxes on wheels made by Toyota, Honda and that little KIA, they advertize on TV, that can only carry four gerbils. That is until you get run over by a real car. ;)
wrote:

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