* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - Adrian Kendrick
In this day and age with the car work load increasing the positioning of important instruments is being ignored.
With our speed now being monitored nearly everywhere it is paramount to be able to see ones speed without searching somewhere through the steering wheel, why are cars not fitted with either 'Heads up Speedo' or a small binnacle speedo at the foot of the windscreen so that speed can be seen without taking ones eyes from the Road? I have purchased a HUD for £18 which is perfect.
Secondly the other instrument that is really bad for taking ones attention from the road is the GPS screen, why is this not always mounted high up rather than down by the gear stick?
I really am not very impressed with modern car designers who I believe do not own or drive their own cars so have no idea of the real driving world.
* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - scot22

I have posted a number of times about cars being design over function. This is a concern for many aspects, e.g blind spots. Unfortunately we appear to be stuck with image first designers. There should be a compulsory check list of requirements before a car design is accepted - no chance !

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - Andrew-T

Unfortunately we appear to be stuck with image first designers. There should be a compulsory check list of requirements before a car design is accepted - no chance !

The basic problem is that most car buyers only think about functional details long after choosing their car on the basis of style, colour, price, badge loyalty, personal status ....

Some, like yourself, do include functionality, but I suspect speed readout is a long way down most buyers' list. A MINI, for example, has a large numeric display as well as a normal dial speedo.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - badbusdriver

This is the reason for current Peugeot dashboards being configured as they are. With a very small steering wheel mounted low, so the dials are viewed over the wheel, right below the screen. Never tried, or been in one myself, but from what I've read, it works best if you are of, at least, average height. If you are a 'shorty' it doesn't really work.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - RichT54

I too would like to have a speedo that I could see without looking down. On my A3 you can configure the display panel between the analogue rev-counter and speedo to show a number of different sets of data. My favourite is the large digital speedo display which is clear and easy to read, but you still have to take your eye off the road.

The SatNav/Infotainment screen on the A3 is quite neat as it automatically slides vertically up from the dashboard which makes it easy to see, plus you can make it retract at the press of a button when you are not using it.

Edited by RichT54 on 16/08/2017 at 14:47

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - corax

The touch screen modes for modern ventilation/heating are just ludicrous and a good way of diverting drivers attention from the road.. Surely that's a step back to adjusting the controls directly? If the screen goes faulty you have nothing that works.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - papakevkev

I agree entirely with the comments, but as a hand-disabled driver I would go much further than the suggestions being made.

My left hand is pretty useless and I am thinking that one day soon there won't be a car available without one of those dirty great tablet things stuck atop the dashboard for operating all controls such as heating/ventilation and 'infotainment' (God I hate that word). This wouldn't just affect disabled drivers, able-bodied drivers would also be distracted from actually controlling the vehicle properly if they try to operate these daft touch screens. Are they any less safe than using a mobile phone? No, because your attention is elsewhere whenever you use the thing.

Car controls should be as simple as it is possible to make them. As I have said before, I drive a Yeti, chosen because of its reasonably low tech dash. However, the heater control is just crazy. Switch on the fan and it immediately goes to the highest setting. The driver then has to tap a tiny button to reduce the fan to a lower setting. Dangerously distracting, I would suggest.

I would advocate that controls go back to basics... A slider control for heater, push pads for selecting heater fan settings - push to switch on, push again to switch off. And these controls should be large enough that they can be actuated by a clenched fist. It would mean no unnecessary distractions.

Yes, I know I am being selfish, but actually every driver would benefit from such simple controls.

Designers should be made to imagine they are wearing mittens when they are planning control layouts. That would solve the problem.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - RT

I can understand papakevkev's comments - even without disability, my current car was chosen because it was old-fashioned but still with too much modern tech.

Setting climate control to automatic, and adjusting the temperature once does cut out most of my intervention with the touch screen.

I still find that cancelling a TP message a pain, not helped by the incompetence of some radio stations that don't send the triggering code until part-way through the transmission or simply fail to signal the end. Living where I do in the Midlands, we have a lot of motorways each with junctions 1-6 so when the transmission cuts in AFTER they've said which motorway the jam is at, I'm simply none the wiser.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - argybargy

Referring exclusively to the speedo display, maybe car manufacturers could get their heads together with officialdom and come up with a device that communicates with a sensor installed at the roadside and gives a warning signal when the car is say, 3 mph over the limit. It would negate the inconvenience of having to regularly monitor a speedometer, and you would only have to check your speed if and when the warning signal sounded.

Such a thing would of course cost public money and also put local councils at risk of losing speed camera revenue, so unlikely to happen this side of Hell freezing over.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - scot22

' Car controls should be as simple as it is possible to make them. '

If only that happened ; also to everything else.

Safely driving a car is very demanding on the brain. Other demands should be reduced as much as possible.

Sadly, profit and car sales appear to be considered more important than safety.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - bolt

I too would like to have a speedo that I could see without looking down

You can on the civic, speedo is on top of dash so you can see it without taking eyes off the road

Heater/aircon can be set and left on auto, most infotainment I need can be adjusted from steering wheel

so I think some manufacturers are taking note of what people ask for. whether some like it or not is another matter?

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - RT

I too would like to have a speedo that I could see without looking down

You can on the civic, speedo is on top of dash so you can see it without taking eyes off the road

Heater/aircon can be set and left on auto, most infotainment I need can be adjusted from steering wheel

so I think some manufacturers are taking note of what people ask for. whether some like it or not is another matter?

We should all be able to judge speed well enough without constantly looking at the speedo.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - bolt

We should all be able to judge speed well enough without constantly looking at the speedo

your not constantly looking at it, but its much easier to see without looking away from the screen like some are....its brightness is auto/manually adjustable according to ambient light as most are by a sensor on the dash

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - Smileyman

so does a digital speed reading in the middle of the dashboard between spedometer and rev counter meet your requirement? having looked at a few newish cars recently this is becoming much more common

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - galileo

so does a digital speed reading in the middle of the dashboard between spedometer and rev counter meet your requirement? having looked at a few newish cars recently this is becoming much more common

This was the usual arrangement on Yaris's for years, it was in a hump on top of the dash in the centre, not easily seen by front seat passenger so nervous ones couldn't see if you were speeding and nag about it.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - Engineer Andy
In this day and age with the car work load increasing the positioning of important instruments is being ignored. With our speed now being monitored nearly everywhere it is paramount to be able to see ones speed without searching somewhere through the steering wheel, why are cars not fitted with either 'Heads up Speedo' or a small binnacle speedo at the foot of the windscreen so that speed can be seen without taking ones eyes from the Road? I have purchased a HUD for £18 which is perfect. Secondly the other instrument that is really bad for taking ones attention from the road is the GPS screen, why is this not always mounted high up rather than down by the gear stick? I really am not very impressed with modern car designers who I believe do not own or drive their own cars so have no idea of the real driving world.

As others have said, many modern cars have a digital readout on the instrument panel, and am sure some performance cars have a HUD. The only 'standard' one that comes to mind are the Mazda3, CX-3, 6 and CX-5, but only on the Sport models in the UK. I test-drove both a 3 and CX-3 with them on and found them to be very good; the 3's newer version is more of a multi-function HUD with speed warnings etc displayed. I know some people find the feature cheesy as the plastic HUD perhaps looks a bit low-rent, but I wasn't bothered. It worked well and that was that. I'm also glad they've gone with a more 'minimalist' approach to the general dashboard layout, which was quite ergonomic as well. Many cars of 5-10 years ago had way too many buttons and were not easy to use when driving. I think many mankes have made great strides in this area and improved on the original BMW iDrive system - the Mazda one was easy to use.

I'm wary though of those who are going over to fully touchscreen controls, especially for things like A/C temp and fan speed - you have to either be very good at do so blind (i.e. looking at the road) or take a big risk and take your eyes off the road to change the settings, otherwise its stopping at the side of the road to be safe. Much easier with a simple dial and/or two big on/off and up/down pushbutton (with beeps for each graduation or setting) for the major stuff like that.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - bolt

I'm wary though of those who are going over to fully touchscreen controls, especially for things like A/C temp and fan speed - you have to either be very good at do so blind (i.e. looking at the road) or take a big risk and take your eyes off the road to change the settings

very simples really, you set your temp before you move off then switch to auto which keeps temp as you set it

touch control is a software button rather than physical,instead of pressing a button you touch it which is supposed to be faster reacting than push button (that was the idea anyway) I know some didnt turn out that way

the Civic infotainment system is not as touch sensitive as I would have liked, but I gather its been improved on most cars(not checked any to find out)

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - Engineer Andy

very simples really, you set your temp before you move off then switch to auto which keeps temp as you set it

Mostly true, but in the height of summer I find its better to avoid thermal shock by having the starting internal temperature about a third to half the way between the eventual desired internal temperature and the current ambient. I then turn the temp setting down gradually over a reasonable period, which means I don't feel overly cold when the A/C reduces the car internal temperature. As such, I need to adjust the temperature setting. Much easier with a dial or up/down set of buttons than a mobile phone/tablet style flick with the finger, especially the dial as I can feel my way to it and use it far easier than touch screen.

I agree, touch screens are fine for sat nav functions and some other bits, but not all, especially when they relate to the thermal comfort of the car.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - bolt

very simples really, you set your temp before you move off then switch to auto which keeps temp as you set it

Mostly true, but in the height of summer I find its better to avoid thermal shock by having the starting internal temperature about a third to half the way between the eventual desired internal temperature and the current ambient. I then turn the temp setting down gradually over a reasonable period, which means I don't feel overly cold when the A/C reduces the car internal temperature. As such, I need to adjust the temperature setting. Much easier with a dial or up/down set of buttons than a mobile phone/tablet style flick with the finger, especially the dial as I can feel my way to it and use it far easier than touch screen.

I agree, touch screens are fine for sat nav functions and some other bits, but not all, especially when they relate to the thermal comfort of the car.

Auto temp setting is a gradual process so you dont get a shock as temp goes down, but manual temp adjust buttons are close to the auto, easy to get to and see on dash display when you adjust temp, but it cancels out auto and stays on manual till you press auto again

apart from touch sensitivity, I dont see the difference between a manual button and touch control, I think a lot of people just have a problem with technology and make excuses as to why they have a complaint about it.

I wonder what the reaction will be when everything is voice controlled, which is looking like becoming the norm?

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - RichT54

The last two cars that I''ve owned (CR-V and A3) have included voice activation for things like sat-nav and radio/mp3.

On both of them you press a button on the steering wheel and then say a command and supposedly the system will jump to the correct function. The main problem I have is remembering the list of valid commands, except on the CR-V saying "Go home" got the SatNav to display its recommended route from wherever I was, to my home location.

The A3 system doesn't seem to like my pronunciation and just jumps to some obscure menu seemingly at random, so I've given up trying to use it.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - Smileyman

On my former Primera the spedo was in the middle of the car, in a postion where all in the car could easily see the dial and with easy line of sight for driver without looking down. At first it seemed odd but with time it became second nature and I thought nothing of it. Obviously it did not catch on as it was not repeated with other Nissan (or other branded) cars.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - jc2

People talking about positioning of control/instruments appear to forget that the manufacturers have to produce a vehicle that copes with different heights,shapes,weights,proportions etc.-not just themselves.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - RT

People talking about positioning of control/instruments appear to forget that the manufacturers have to produce a vehicle that copes with different heights,shapes,weights,proportions etc.-not just themselves.

That's why seats have a lot of adjustment - to get the eye line in a similar place for everyone.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - jc2

Most if not all seats can be adjusted fore and aft but many cannot be adjusted for height--some steering wheels can be adjusted for height-some in and out-but not all.Some people have long arms-some short.I once followed a car belonging to a somone from the same office.I thought at first it had been stolen as I knew that he was well over 6 ft. tall and the driver was almost peering thro' the steering wheel to drive.On overtaking,I realized it was him but he must have had very long legs combined with a short upper body.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - corax

Most if not all seats can be adjusted fore and aft but many cannot be adjusted for height--some steering wheels can be adjusted for height-some in and out-but not all.Some people have long arms-some short.I once followed a car belonging to a somone from the same office.I thought at first it had been stolen as I knew that he was well over 6 ft. tall and the driver was almost peering thro' the steering wheel to drive.On overtaking,I realized it was him but he must have had very long legs combined with a short upper body.

Driver position is a strange one because some manufacturers aren't consistent with it. I was never truly comfortable in my old Avensis because the pedals were too high in relation to the seat with it's short seat squab, meaning my longish legs weren't supported properly. Yet in a Yaris, I was more comfortable because the pedals are lower and it seems to accomodate a wider variety of sizes. And this in a small car where the packaging is more difficult.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - Engineer Andy

Indeed - I've found that with the 'MPV' cars you are forced to sit far more upright (even with seat and steering wheel adjustments in all planes). I personally found the driving position in my old Mazda3, as well as the latest incarnation, more comfortable than the CX-3 (not bad in itself, both test driven only), the Mazda2 (courtesy car for the day) and mid 90s Micra (my previous car) in between, and a Suzuki Celerio again too upright (I also had to reach down to operate the handbrake, which I didn't like at all.

The standard 'C' sector cars I find have the best driving position ergonomically for me (ave. height at 5ft 10in), followed by the larger ones like the Mazda6 and Mondeo. It also have (for my overall height) long-ish legs and short-ish arms, so reach adjustment for the steering wheel is a must. I do, though, find on some cars that as a result of me getting the seat and steering wheel position as best I can for driving comfort that this can sometimes slightly block my view of the top of the instrument panel. Having height adjustment on the seats would help in that regard.

Ergonomics on cars is something that in recent years many manufacturers have dropped the ball on in favour of pure styling and amount of toys - with my back problems i must have a decent seating position, and that also includes having no as as little amount of offset in the steering wheel and pedal positions, plus a foot rest for my left foot. I've rejected several cars in the past as a result of them not ticking these boxes (they are some of my 'must haves') despite most/all other easpects being to my liking.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - Terry W

There are two separate control/instrument issues.

INFORMATION - only essential item is a speedo. Cameras have proliferated. Perceptions of speed are dominated by context - eg: entering a motorway services at 70mph + only to find that the bend 70m on is best taken at 25mph. All other information - oil temp, water temp, fuel level etc can be called up when needed or used as a warning function.

CONTROL - tactile knobs and switches for frequently accessed functions as.screens are distracting and dangerous on the move. For rarely accessed items these should be screen based and only operable with the vehicle stationary.

.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - Bilboman

Good explanation, Terry W; spot on. I would only add the category EMERGENCY, for the situations we never hope to find ourselves in, where the driver (or front passenger) has to carry out a manoeuvre very quickly and these particular controls need to be in an instantly recognisable, intuitive location. Now that horn and headlamp flashers are all in identical locations, my remaining top three:
1. Hazard light switch. Bring back the 1970s Datsun or even better 1980s Austin-Rover style big red sticking-out switch with a firm press action and built in red tell-tale light, in the best position ever, atop the steering wheel cowl.
2. Emergency/hand/parking brake. Between front seats or low down in console. Can we please have this trimmed in bright chrome and with a universal symbol and standard size and - if it has to be electric (questionable) - with a PULL-NOT-PRESS operation (Avensis, I'm looking at you!)
3. Central locking, even if automatically set and disengaged, also needs to have a large, central, visible switch, preferably two-stage. Standard pull unlocks doors; further pull quickly opens all windows. (I'm thinking worst case scenarios involving rivers and lakes here...)

Edited by Bilboman on 13/09/2017 at 01:43

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - SkodaIan

The hazard light switch is standardised I think. I can't remember any car I've been in over the last 10 years that doesn't have it dead centre high up on the dashboard, usually between the two heater vents. Having been in a car in the 80s which nearly crashed after the driver put her hand through the steering wheel to switch on the hazard lights for a traffic whilst doing abo ut 70 on the motorway, I'd argue the old position was not really that great...

My personal gripe is the left hand drive features which remain on right hand drive cars. Worst is the now near universal incorrect side for the indicator stalk. On a right hand drive car it should be on the right hand side of the steering wheel, so you can switch it on/off whilst changing gear if needed. The only modern car I've come across where it is correct was an i800 I had as a hire car. Ironically it had an automatic gearbox but it was still good to be able to use the correct hand to switch indicators on and off! Even after 10+ years and about 300000 miles of putting up with the stalk on the wrong side, it still felt natural and I only switched on the wipers once by mistake when trying to navigate the Magic Roundabout in Swindon.

Other annoying left hand drive features which remain on many cars are the handbrake on the far side of the cupholders, and the volume control being on the left hand side of the radio. Less annoying (though it did make me look pretty stupid at the time) is the bonnet release on the Leon, which is located in the passenger footwell, because this would be the drivers footwell in most markets where the car is sold.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - Bilboman

I remember driving a friend's Alfasud many years ago and marvelling at the workings of the overworked column stalks. If I remember correctly, I once managed to simultaneously switch on lights, wipers, left indicator and the heater fan and flash the lights and blast the horn by dint of rotating, pulling and moving downwards the two column stalks. I seem to remember blowing a number of fuses as well, 1970s Italian electrics being what they were. Last word on car dashboards has to go to the Italians: look at these monstrosities here! bit.ly/2xkhnnI

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - Middleman

"In this day and age with the car work load increasing..."

That's the root cause of this problem. There is no need for the workload to have increased. Beyond a simple one-touch radio which can be adjusted without looking at it no other gadgets should be in a car. The rot set in when some lunatic devised a multi-menu, multi-function touch screen device intended for use by drivers whilst driving.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - barney100

My car sat nav has a permanent speed limit indicator and most cars seem to have them too. Just switch it on...job done.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - focussed

Both of my recent Hondas, 8th generation civic and late model accord, have had speed alarms that can be preset, enabled or disabled by the driver, operated via the speedo.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - Avant

"On a right hand drive car it should be on the right hand side of the steering wheel, so you can switch it on/off whilst changing gear if needed,"

You have logic on your side, Skodalan, but I think we're past the point of no return now. The last car I had so equipped was a Maxi in the 1970s, although for some reason Toyotas in South Africa had RH indicators, certinly when we had them as hire cars on holiday.

Where I wish buyers would vote with their feet is by rejecting the pernicious tendency by several makers to have the heater and AC controlled by touchscreen. This demands concentration and is potentially dangerous: I find it extraordinary that Volvo, with all their emphasis on safety, should have taken this path in their latest models.

Good on Ian Callum of Jaguar, who has said that as long as he's around this will never happen. So far at least, VAG and BMW have resisted it too.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - Fishermans Bend

For a long time Japanese cars had indicators operated by the right stalk.

I've never found checking my speedometer or any other instruments a distraction.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - Bilboman

Touchscreens are a godsend for the front seat PASSENGER and for the driver when STATIONARY, but otherwise they should be totally locked against potentially distracting usage. High-end Jaguars let the passenger watch TV while the driver can only see restricted screen content while the car is on the move - it can't be that difficult, surely!
It's as if we've gone back 30 years to the time when legislation against hand held mobile use - and functional hands free kits - were virtually non existent. Weak, easily-lobbied governments allow car manufacturers unlimited experimentation in a brave new touchscreen, voice-operated world to bestow magical new inventions on the apparently gadget-mad carbuying public, with barely a nod to road safety. But, hey, don't worry, autonomous braking and blind spot detection can keep us safe, right? Wrong! Out pour ever more solutions to questions we've never actually asked.
Even when sitting comfortably at a table with a touchscreen smartphone in my hand, I cannot reliably type a message longer than one sentence without making mistakes for the very simple reason that I can't see where I'm pressing while I'm pressing it. I'm beginning to mourn the company-provided Blackberries I had, bless their little keypads! Give me proper buttons (and not too many of them!) any day of the week, but infernal touchscreen menus can go hang.

Edited by Bilboman on 14/09/2017 at 02:38

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - Sofa Spud

I never have any trouble monitoring my speed although I'd welcome simple instruments - the Tesla Model 3 looks like the ultimate - a single info screen in the middle of the car.

One bugbear I do find is with speedos that are graduated in 20 mph increments, made worse by the fact that they vary between cars - some say 20,40, 60 while others have 10, 30, 50.

Why can't they be marked 10,20,30, 40, 50 etc?

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - Manatee

The touch function of the MX5 so equipped is disabled at speeds greater than 6mph. Functions can still be performed using the 'command' knob though, whcih still involves looking at the screen. There are however real rotary knobs for the ventilation system.

I'd like to say the dials are a model of clarity, but the most important, the speedo, is too small and with too compressed a range so the speed is hard to read precisely. 30, 50, and 70 are unlabelled. Poor.

goo.gl/3oKBNA

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - Terry W

People like gizmos give a superficial benefit to the customer, and allow manufacturers to charge a lot more..

But it got out of control when adding functionality simplyneeded a few new lines of code on a computer chip + possible a new sensor costing pence to an already installed wiring loom.

Few instruments needed to make safe legal progress. Speedometer and the standard column/wheel mounted controls largely cover it.

Most other functions can be relegated to a screen operated only when stationary or simple HUD for heating/aircon etc. Touch screens are even worse than phones as they cannot be in line of sight when used but involve ffocussing often on the centre/bottom of central console.

* - Visibility/Positioning of instruments - Bilboman

It's a shame no other manufacturer picked up SAAB's idea of the aircraft-inspired night time driving option of shutting down all instruments except the speedometer. Speedos do indeed seem to be getting smaller and less easy to read, although a secondary digital readout is often available. Touch screens all seem to have at least one major flaw, be it poor visibility owing to positioning, annoying reflections from sunlight, overloaded functions or the penny-pinching manufacturer's favourite, the ridiculously small size on lesser models - "yes, it's got one, but it's not very good; care to trade up to the Allure/GTX/Vignale model, Sir/Madam?"

 

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