New Cars | My Black Brick

My Black Brick

Keeping a '92 Volvo 240 Wagon on the Road & Other Automotive & DIY Musings

Lost in the Dashboard

I suppose I’m lucky to have never had to deal with the mess that is current automotive dashboard design. While the 240s climate controls look like they fell out of a strip mall Radio Shack in 1982, at least you can use them by touch when your dash lights are blown. As touch screens take over the dashboard in many new cars, it seems there is rising frustration from drivers being forced to dive deep into menu structures just to adjust their heated seats.

Joe Sharkey in the NY Times relates his recent experience driving a rental Volvo XC60:

The electronic dashboard interface — the controls for everything other than actually making the car go — was baffling. As I drove, I tried to figure out unfathomable symbols and notices, from “Brian’s iPhone,” which for some reason flashed on the dashboard screen whenever I tried in vain to regulate the air-conditioner, to an elaborately designed radio that resisted my efforts to change the channel.

So the guy who passed me on the 105 tapping his horn and waving to signal that my rear windshield wiper remained on, even though it was a sunny day, should know that hip-hop music also was blasting inside my car in maddening synchronization with the wipers that I couldn’t turn off.

The Sad Sack pictured here is enjoying the latest innovation from Apple: a “Digital Dash” that tracks his head and eye movements as he navigates to the closest liquor store. It’s part of a patent application for a giant touch-screen dashboard powered by iOS 7. While the screen will have physical ridges and indentations, it will essentially absorb all physical knobs and switches into its virtual maw. Apple realizes that tactility is important, so they create a cyber solution for a problem they created in the first place.


Riding in a Wagon is Utter Humiliation

My hatred for the latest Toyota Highlander commercials knows no bounds. Yes, children, you should feel humiliated if your parents can’t afford to buy the latest, super-ginormous monster truck laden with electronic garbage to tote your entitled asses to and from your rich suburban school.

While Jalopnik protests the disparaging remarks made against the Corvette-engined Buick Roadmaster, Sociological Images nails the underlying shame the ad is intended to invoke: “If you’re too poor to buy a brand new mid-range SUV, you suck.”

Another ad in the series, entitled “Kid Cave“, is particularly disgusting because it tells kids they should just plug in their headphones and cut off all communication with their parents, as if it’s a good thing. The scene of the wedding-singer parents is funny, but in my car it’s rare that I get to listen to my own music with the kids.

Rather than enjoying listening to music TOGETHER, I guess I should be isolating my kids by covering their ears with headphones and listening to whatever I want. Seems the Toyota ideal is to have all the members of the family walk around plugged into their own electronic devices, silent on the outside and ignoring each other.

BONUS: More analysis on Hipster Runoff


Can you fix your car?


Seeing as I drive a 17 yo POS, I have no idea what the experience of getting a new car repaired is. Apparently many car companies demand that drivers only get their cars fixed through them. They do this by using computer codes that lock the mechanics of the car to anyone other than the dealer. This hinders the ability of smaller mechanics to make a living or provide alternate diagnosis. Ultimately it limits owners from having control over their own cars. What a scam.

From the Right to Repair site:

The need for Right to Repair legislation has become a necessity in order to protect the rights of car owners to decide where and how they have their vehicles serviced, whether at a new car dealer or an independent service facility. Right to Repair ensures that the person who bought the car and not the car company, can decide where that vehicle is repaired and maintained.

You can support the Right to Repair legislation by contacting congress here: