Consider the new BMW Series 7 automobile. The automobile key is a personal identifier that instructs the car to adjust the seat, mirrors, steering column, etc. to the key owner's preferences. To start the engine, push the "Start" button. To turn the engine off? Push the same "Start" button. (Yes, it runs windows CE.)
"The iDrive plus display," says the sales brochure, is a "user-friendly interface (that) offers quick access to over 700 settings, plus navigations system maps, phone book listings, and more" One control, one display -- 700 settings? What were they thinking?
The New 7 series BMW no longer has all those knobs and buttons that clutter up the dashboard - you know, where each knob does one thing that you can count on. Instead, it has a single controller located on the center console that "functions similarly to a computer mouse." It drives a display in the center of the dashboard. It is called the iDrive: i for "intuitive".
So what was behind this sudden slump? It turns out that this year's IQS [Initial Quality Study] factored in a whole new set of data on design flaws, which included the usability of each car's cabin technology. And it will come as little surprise to those who have spent hours wrangling with the iDrive and COMAND (BMW and Mercedes's driver interfaces, respectively) that the results show the integration of many advanced technology systems leaving quite a bit to be desired.
According to Neal Oddes, director of product research and analysis at J. D. Power, it is not technology per se that generates new problems, but rather its integration and execution. Oddes also points out that the nameplate ranking is an overall assessment that applies to the whole range of a carmaker's models, many of which are not equipped with the latest technology interfaces. However, the message to the designers is clear: If you're going to install technology to make drivers' lives easier, start by making it easy to use.
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