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April 11, 2006 12:03 AM

Broken: Acura navigation system interface


I counted 15 interface elements - buttons on- and off-screen - in this Acura Navigation System.

Is that really safe for the driver to try to operate at 60 MPH? (And yes, despite any on-screen warnings, of course they will operate it while driving.)


1st post!

Posted by: Joe at April 11, 2006 12:19 AM

This Is Broken is so totally Slashdot now.

Posted by: Jello B. at April 11, 2006 12:22 AM

everyone be careful not to actually comment on the topic at hand.

Posted by: gmangw at April 11, 2006 12:41 AM

Maybe they are trying to put so many buttons that you have to stop to use it. I'm surprised there haven't been any lawsuits because of accidents caused by these systems.

Posted by: Edward at April 11, 2006 01:05 AM

A large number of interface elements is preferable to the menu systems that have been taking over our lives as of late. However, in any system in a car to be operated by the driver, there should be no touch-screen elements at all, for any reason, ever. The driver should be able to operate all driver-operated eqiupment without having to look at it.

On first posts: grow up, kids! If you want to brag about first posts, go hang out on Slashdot, where getting a first post is actually difficult. Otherwise, you're just wanking.

Posted by: Glenn Lasher at April 11, 2006 06:51 AM

It's part of the TiB culture now. Let it be, it's not going away. For my money, the complaints about the "first!" post are more annoying than the post itself- at least I can scroll on by the first post every time I look. The complaint posts rear their ugly heads in places no one expects. Like a sneak attack.

Besides, they won't change anyway, so why try?

Devices requiring driver interaction are always broken. They endanger everybody on the road. Voice activation and reply- or maybe a HUD-like device that projects onto a small part of the windshield, and takes commands via thumb controls on the steering wheel- would be ideal.

Posted by: =David at April 11, 2006 08:36 AM

Oy Vey! The thumbprints all over that thing! Filthy!

I agree that taking the driver's attention off the road and on to their little gadgets is broken. Like David said, it should be on the steering wheel or voice activated because I'm sick of people not paying attention to the fact that they are DRIVING.

And can you really sue the auto maker because the driver chose to use the gadgets while they were hurtling down the road at 60-70mph? Isn't that driver's fault for choosing to do so at that time?

Posted by: Serenity at April 11, 2006 08:58 AM

I'm not sure if an interface where you would have to pass three or more simpler screens to make the same choice would be that much safer

Screen1: Would you like to specify a new destination or use one from memory? [A] [B]

Screen2: Would you like to drive to a city or a specific street? [A] [B]

Screen3: Would you like to specify the street using an on-screen keyboard or select it from a list? [A] [B]


Posted by: Bobby at April 11, 2006 09:03 AM

You're right, of course, but due to the overabundance of lawsuits and the underabundance of common sense, no carmaker's going to risk that. And systems that lock up when the car is moving are broken too, because the front passenger should at least be able to use them.

Posted by: Fuzzy at April 11, 2006 09:04 AM

Last post directed at Serenity.

Posted by: Fuzzy at April 11, 2006 09:04 AM

This is probably the old navigation system. The current version that has been used for a couple of years now is voice activated and does not require you to look at the screen or touch the screen while driving.

Posted by: Jeff at April 11, 2006 09:06 AM

No more dangerous than a distracting cell-phone conversation at 60 mph.

Posted by: Mad Meg at April 11, 2006 09:09 AM

Touch screen: worst choice ever for a car. There are actually only a few places where a touchscreen is the best choice, but you find them everywhere. Either because they are "cool" or someone is trying to save money buy buying generic buttonless displays (and spending time coding the display software) instead of making their own button layout on the thing. Only place I can think of a use for a touchscreen is when you have really complex software with many modes, or it's truly a dynamic display where a button actually could say anything or by any size or shape depending on runtime conditions.

Posted by: reed at April 11, 2006 09:13 AM

We were following someone that had one of these in her car. She made a wrong turn and it took us 5 miles out of the way in the middle of downtown to get us back to where we wanted to go. Next time, I will just do a u-turn and leave her behind with her technology.

Posted by: JAC at April 11, 2006 11:10 AM

For most people, a navigation system is a pointless waste of money. How often do you really drive someplace you've never been before? And when you DO, referring to some written-down driving directions is probably as good or bad as futzing with a nav system.

Anyway, no matter what kind of interface is used for a navigation system, it WILL be distracting, because your brain is not 100% focused on driving. This is shown by accident stats for hands-free car phones which aren't any safer than the hands-on kind.

Touch screens vs. buttons, knobs vs voice control, they all are distractions.

Posted by: Alex B at April 11, 2006 12:19 PM

I actually own one of these, so I'd like to make a few points:

Touchscreen - somewhat broken. Buttons are persnickety and you have to push them 2-3 times sometimes. Plus you can't read the screen with sunglasses on. Fingerprints (unavoidable) make it worse.

Driving at 60 - Some drivers can handle this, some can't. It is no worse than drinking coffee, fiddling with the radio, talking on cell, reading a map, yelling at the kids, or applying mascara. My rule is to do no more than ONE of these while driving on the freeway, and NONE of them in city or highway traffic. But I take responsibility and I won't be suing Acura if I'm wrong.

Who needs it? - Many many people drive places they've never been before. Salesman, for example. Also, lots of people drive BETWEEN places, and it's nice to know how to get not just from home to A or B, but how to get from A to B and on to C when you want to be efficient. I thought this was kind of a gimmick when I bought it, but now I can't live without it.

Database engine - Broken. Can't tell from picture, but in use, there is no way to do certain useful things, like find the nearest Taco Bell. Try it. You'll end up with directions to some random Taco Bell in another state.

Other parts work well, however, so I'd call it "suboptimal" instead of "broken".

Posted by: Rhonda at April 11, 2006 12:58 PM

"No more dangerous than a distracting cell-phone conversation at 60 mph.

Posted by: Mad Meg at Apr 11, 2006 9:09:50 AM"

Will someone please explain why a cell phone conversation is supposed to be more distracting that a conversation with someone sitting in the same car? I would think the latter more problematic, due to the tendency to turn one's head to look at a person while talking to him...

Posted by: Shalom at April 11, 2006 01:56 PM

The reason that a cell phone is more distracting than having a conversation with someone sitting in the car is that one has to use one hand to keep the phone pressed against the ear. A hands-free cell phone alleviates this problem.

Many also believe that even though the driver may be slightly distracted by having a conversation in the car, the other person acts as a second set of eyes. Another person in the car can notice something and yell "Watch Out!" whereas a person on the other end of a cell phone conversation cannot.

I personally feel that hand-held cellphones should not be used while driving but that the hands-free models are okay. Even with nothing else to distract them, people can become distracted by things they see on the side of the road (accidents, scenery, etc.)

As for navigation systems, I feel that a well-designed system can help cut down on accidents. These systems are most useful when driving in unfamiliar areas. Without a navigation system, a driver is forced to use a map which will definitely take his eyes off the road. A few summers ago, I travelled to an unfamiliar area and my rental car had a navigation system built in. It did serve to increase my confidence when driving around a strange city and I never got lost.

Posted by: eBob at April 11, 2006 02:57 PM

hear is what they need. a system that will only work at 60 mph when there is both weight in the pasanger seat and when the seat belt of the driver and pasanger is on. then no more accidents.

Posted by: mark cordell at April 11, 2006 03:04 PM

The Toyota Nav system is far worse. I have to relearn every time how to put in a destination. And clearing out a destination before you get there? (because our car thinks our house is 3 doors down from where it actually is) I usually figure it out eventually...

Posted by: Mary at April 11, 2006 03:33 PM

Respectfully, eBob, you're out to lunch. Studies have repeatedly shown that hands-free phones are no less distracting than handset phones for drivers. See for example.

What most people don't realize is that it takes much more concentration to hold a conversation over a phone line than it does to talk with someone in person. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is the relatively narrow audio bandwidth that telephones carry. You literally don't hear as much on a phone, so you have to listen harder. That's why it's often so difficult to catch phone numbers or the spelling of unfamiliar names compared to a "live" conversation. (It's also why hold music is often so annoying.)

Of course, another reason you have to concentrate harder on a phone conversation is that you miss all the visual cues (facial expressions, nods of the head, etc.) that are an important part of communication. Even a driver who is keeping his eyes on the road can safely shoot an occasional glance at his passenger to pick these nuances up, but on the phone you don't have that luxury.

I'm not saying people shouldn't be allowed to talk on the phones while driving. But I do think that people should be more aware of what a distraction it really is. It's not like listening to the radio or talking to a passenger. It's significantly more dangerous, much like fiddling with a poorly designed navigation system, in fact.

Posted by: E.T. at April 11, 2006 04:18 PM

Well jet pilots have hundreds of buttons and diiffernt screens to look at and there flying sometimes at mach speeds, so I figure any moron could handle that amount of buttons at 60 mph. Sure pilots have alot more training but I think we need to train our drivers better as well.

Posted by: Stephanie at April 11, 2006 07:03 PM

Is that the button for Air Conditioning b/n Map Guide and Cancel?

Who would bother to put buttons next to an ultra cool touch screen?

At least they'll be able to identify you by your fingerprints on the screen if your body is toast after an accident.

Posted by: Capt. Wafer at April 11, 2006 08:42 PM

A touch screen iterfaces are useful. They have their place. But their place isn't in a car.

Posted by: Carlos Gomez at April 12, 2006 09:39 AM


I don’t know is your post was serious or not, but I am going to answer it anyways.

The difference is that while piloting an airplane there is much less traffic, no telephone poles or lamp posts, no ditches, no road signs to try to read, ect... that the driver must pay attention to while driving. Also an airplane will keep going straight on autopilot and has radar and GPS (usually) so an airplane pilot, unlike an automobile driver, can afford to spend several minutes not looking where they are going.

I agree that anything that distracts the driver is broken. That includes everything from talking to a passenger to using a nav system while driving. I also agree that it is the driver's responsibility not to allow themselves to engage in a distracting activity while driving. Therefore look up your route while the car is parked, and try to limit conversations to a few sentences to limit distraction.

Posted by: Sean P at April 12, 2006 10:47 AM

I recall reading somewhere that when car radios came out there was a movement to ban them because they were thought to be distracting to the driver.

While I'm something of a Luddite when it comes to gadgets and don't even own a cell phone, I'm wondering whether in a few years we'll be wondering what all the fuss was about.

Posted by: Steve at April 12, 2006 11:23 AM

"Will someone please explain why a cell phone conversation is supposed to be more distracting that a conversation with someone sitting in the same car?"

Um, talking on a cell phone while driving is not the same as talking to a passenger.

A passenger will tend to stop talking if he sees a situation developing that the driver needs to concentrate on (after all, the passenger's life's in danger, too). But a person talking to you on a cell phone will just keep blathering on. Plus, you have to concentrate much more when talking on a cell phone than with a passenger.

Posted by: KarmaBaby at April 12, 2006 05:54 PM

Hmm.. I'm just posting to say this is the Obligatory Stupid 28th Post.....and until somebody else posts is the Last Post

Posted by: Infinity at April 12, 2006 07:37 PM

Here in Japan, the Navi systems are designed to shut off their buttons when the car is driving. However, it is common practice for drivers to keep the hill brake on as they drive around town so they can watch TV on their snazy navis.

Like they say:

If you make something more idiot proof, they will just make a better idiot.

Posted by: ARG at April 13, 2006 06:47 AM

Why dont they put some of the buttons on the steering wheel? Then drivers would only have to quickly glance over instead of leaning over to see the panel and taking their hands off the wheel. That would make a hell of a lot more sense. Some car companies have already put the radio controls on the wheel.

Posted by: at April 13, 2006 03:31 PM

Here in Soviet Russia, the Navi systems drive you!

Posted by: juicymixx at April 19, 2006 08:13 AM

dude. screw you. who cares. are you like a tree hugger or something?

Posted by: Luck at July 6, 2006 11:07 PM

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