By on June 27, 2016

GC Shifter

My most devoted readers (Hi, Mom!) know that I’ve used the (Web) pages of Road&Track a few times in the past couple of years to argue for standardizing automotive control location and operation. The general response to my clarion call for action has been a rousing middle finger from the reader, accompanied by an unambiguous suggestion that I use a standardized automatic-transmission shift lever to go fuck myself sideways. What can I say? They were even meaner to John the Baptist, you know.

Last week, some fellow from Hollywood (might have) managed to let his own Grand Cherokee crush him to death. And now, to quote Heath Ledger, everybody loses their minds. There’s a class action lawsuit. The Monostable shifter is being maligned from all quarters, often by the same people who said that the Chrysler rotary PRNDL control was also a problem.

In my previous articles, I predicted that the government, or the courts, would set the automakers’ houses in order if they couldn’t do it themselves. Perhaps that will happen now. I hope not. In the meantime, however, let’s take a brief look at the arguments from control standardization, and the arguments for deviating from those standards sensibly.

In the era of everything-by-wire, there is no compelling reason why manufacturers cannot agree on, and implement, a common standard for the behavior of major controls. We already have federal standards for pedal placement, speedometer legibility, and other major interfaces between human and machine. It’s difficult to argue that the brake pedal always needs to be on the left without also accepting that pressing “up” on a wiper control stalk should always turn on the wipers.

A driver should be able to get in a car and know that the basic safety-related functions of the vehicle, from shifter operation to the headlight switch, can be operated in a predictable and well-known fashion. The Monostable shifter in Bimmers and Chryslers? It’s stupid. Beyond stupid. It offers no advantage over a conventional floor shift whatsoever. This idea that the user should have to retain state in his head doesn’t even hold true with motorcycles today, which is why almost all of them have a gear position display. You shouldn’t have to remember whether you’re in P, R, N, D or L. You should be able to look at the shifter and see. Better yet would be if you could figure it out without looking, the way you can reach down and realize whether or not your handbrake is on. (“Flyaway” handles excepted, of course, and with good reason: they are also stupid.)

I’ve driven everything from a column-shift ’50s-era Benz to a paddle-and-button McLaren World Challenge racer and I still can’t figure out exactly how to operate the Monostable shifters. I keep shifting past what I want. But even if you assume that I’m basically yelling at a cloud here, that doesn’t give interface designers carte blanche to make basic controls confusing and/or deceptive.

Some of the more adventurous automakers are even screwing, ever so disingenuously, with the PRNDL order. I drove the new Audi R8 last week and realized that you had to press a button to get “P”. What’s the point of that, particularly when the “P” button is located somewhere that is covered by your hand in normal operation?

There should be an industry standard that covers at least the following:

  • Automatic transmission shift selection and behavior
  • Wipers and headlight wash
  • Headlight operation, flash to pass
  • Activation of the horn
  • Volume for the in-car entertainment — because there are times when noise is a dangerous distraction and you want to be able to immediately discern how to turn it down, or off.

It’s easy to understand why this stuff never got standardized in 1975; when all of it was activated mechanically, there was a lot of sunk cost involved in items like the traditional GM headlight switch or the the “maze” Mercedes-Benz shifter. Nowadays, it’s all supplier-built junk that connects to the CAN. It’s no more expensive to do it one way than another. So let’s do it right, before Ralph Nader makes everything safety-orange and foam-padded via the courts or Mrs. Clinton’s incipient kakistocracy.

Once there’s an agreed-upon standard, we can come up with a protocol for deviating from it. One example would be the left-hand “key” that turns off a modern Porsche. Unless you’re well-acquainted with the location of that switch, you will have a hell of a time remembering how to shut down a Panamera in a hurry, particularly if it’s your first Porsche. But that doesn’t mean that a left-hand ignition should be illegal. All that has to happen is for the driver to be deliberately and purposefully educated on the operation of a nonstandard car when he gets in it for the first time. Put a card in the visor, like you do with airplanes. Then have the dashboard flash a reminder at him to read the card before he drives the car. Simple as that.

Dividing vehicles into complaint/standard and non-compliant/unusual helps the owners and drivers of both. The operators of standardized cars can rest in the knowledge that everything’s where it should be. The operators of nonstandard vehicles will know that they have to look at the car and make a conscious effort to internalize the vehicle’s peculiarities, the same way I do nowadays whenever I switch from my 911 (which has Reverse up and to the left of first gear) to my Accord (which has reverse down and to the right of sixth gear).

Will a standardization like this save lives? Possibly. Not more than a few; I don’t think there are a lot of Monostable Cherokees out there crushing people to death. What it would do is make the operation of modern automobiles more sensible for everybody. It would also shut down the ambulance chasers, at least on this point. Best of all, it would result in the death of the Monostable shifter. Unless that’s the standard, in which case I’ll just have to get used to it, sooner or later.

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182 Comments on “Time to Standardize Automotive Controls, And Also To Make Them Different...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Agreed 100%. There was a time when motorcycles didn’t have standardized controls. Imagine hopping on a bike with a shifter where you expected the rear brake to be. Good luck upshifting out of that corner!

    While this is was a stupid choice of many by FCA I see why gimmicks like this flourish. It’s pretty much impossible to make a distinctive design these days with all this regulation, as well as democratization of tech. A Civic Touring has pretty much all the comfort and luxury features I could ever want. Quick too. How can they convince people to spend more? Ooo, Magic Wand shifter and a wrap around touch screen dash. Still though the JGC is the American Range Rover so gimmicks like this are unnecessary. Sergio has his chute ready and is standing at the door of the plane, waiting to jump.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick 2012

      To be fair to FCA, it was a ZF designed handle. The monoposition handle shows up in identical form in the Audi A8.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        Auto writers as well as other ignorant people will blame Chrysler whenever they can. Despite building very high quality products with actual character, people will hate them for no good reason.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          No good reason to hate on FCA? Perhaps you are ignoring every single quality measure that’s been published in the last 40 years. Perhaps you are forgetting the billion dollar bailout funded by taxpayers. Perhaps you forgot the Caliber. The Aspen. The 500L.

          It’s OK to be a fan of FCA. But skip the more ridiculous hyperbole.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “Perhaps you are ignoring every single quality measure that’s been published in the last 40 years.”

            Actually, I am. That 40-year-old reputation is obsolete and even now most quality reports are prejudiced when compared to the actual vehicle. Even CR points out that on average vehicles are better than ever and that there is very little difference between the best and the worst in any class.

            Oh, and I owned a ’79 Aspen that was a remarkably good car. Averaged 25mpg on the highway traveling between Las Vegas, NV and Chattanooga, TN back in 1980 with a 318c.i.d. V8 under the hood. I can’t speak for the more recent CUV that was given the name Aspen because to me it wasn’t an Aspen, it was an attempt to build a cheaper Durango. And the 500L did fairly well for what it was, until the 500X effectively replaced it. The mistake there was in retaining production of the L when the X was simply too similar and offered more capability.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            From best to worse, yes there’s less difference than ever, but worst is still worst.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            then we should all just buy Toyota Camrys and be done with it.

          • 0 avatar
            duffman13

            Just as much reason to give VAG a pass for the entire MKIV-V/B5-B7 era, consumable plastic timing chain guides on their V8s, timing belts tensioners that would seize within service interval on everything else etc.

            And oh look! They use the same shift lever as the Chrysler.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      sportyaccordy – Japanese and European bikes tended to be different. The countershaft (output) shaft on European bikes tended to be on the left. The kick starter also tended to be on the same side. Japanese stuff was opposite. Japanese bikes especially dirt bikes dominated the USA from the 70’s onward. I had a KTM 620 that was left side kick start. When KTM modernized they went with the “Japanese” set up because that is what the bulk of USA riders were familiar with. KTM even got grief from riders because their bolt head sizes were different than the Japanese.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Re: left-hand “key”

    Presumably the driver that shuts-off the car is the same driver that started the car earlier.

    Standards are important, but that’s excessive.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      Perhaps not. Perhaps it’s an emergency responder that needs to shutdown.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        pragmatist – Fire crews tend to cut the power at the battery in a severe crash. Even with that being done, capacitors in the air bag circuitry can still hold a charge and deploy the bags resulting in serious injury to EMT’s.

  • avatar

    Imagine the uproar if a manufacturer moved the enter key on your computer keyboard to the other side of the keyboard. Or changed the numerical keypad to reverse order. Keys are in the same place on every computer for good reason. Granted, your computer wouldn’t roll down a hill and kill you if they changed things but the manufacturers know better.

    BMW and Chrysler should have known better.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      So should ZF, since it’s their design and they appear to have offered it as a “bundle” along with the 8HP transmission.

    • 0 avatar
      Shinoda is my middle name

      What uproar? either the newly placed enter key design would work and be a benefit to the market, in which the designer would be financially rewarded, others would follow the design and the world would experience a productivity boon; or it would be a failure…and the designer would be either resigned to ignominy or learn a valuable lesson about design…

      People be stiflin’ creativity and innovation every time we say ‘the government oughta be mandatin\'”

      Live free or die.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      BMWs have auto-Park that I guess has to interface with the driver’s door. Chrysler screwed the pooch here. No backup camera on the BMW though.

      I was backing up this BMW into a space and opened the door to look back as I was creeping back. Slams it into reverse and wouldn’t come out until I closed the door.

    • 0 avatar
      JEFFSHADOW

      Just look at a standard keypad on your telephone and then at the calculator keypad on your computer! Who did that? The only number locations in common are 4,5,6 and 0. Makes no sense at all. This does not apply to the real rotary phones; I have a 1964 Bell Rotary phone from Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, California.
      As far as transmission shifters are concerned, the best ever was on my 1970 Cutlass Supreme, with the walnut ball, followed by my current 1975 Buick Riviera console shifter. One of the last cool shifters would have to be from the 1977 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ. Perfect placement plus tilted toward the driver!

      • 0 avatar
        Bill Wade

        Western Electric reversed the numbers on the dial pad to slow down people dialing that were used to calculators. The early central office switches could not accept touch tones as rapidly as they do now.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “Or changed the numerical keypad to reverse order. Keys are in the same place on every computer for good reason.”

      Not all numeric keypads are the same. Compare the computer keypad to your TV’s remote control, your smartphone, your older flip-phone, your even older touch-tone phone. What about calculators? Ever hear of reverse-logic calculators?

      Even keyboards are not all the same. Sure, we’re all familiar with QUERTY, but what about Dvorak, which if I recall is even older? What of some of the newer-style keyboards that claim the ability to increase your typing speed by 100% and more?

      What you’re seeing as standards are not necessarily as “standard” as you think. Progress comes by trying different things to see how well they work. Testing in a lab can offer one result… in the Monostable shifter’s release to the consumer after road testing… but it’s the end user that tends to set the ‘standard’ over time. After all, at one time all vehicles had manual transmissions and even then there were (and are) so many different ways to cycle through the gears that each brand and sometimes each model within a brand offers some slight difference. Like the coming new model of Jeep Wrangler having Reverse left and up rather than far right and down. Or how about the VW old Beetle where you had to push the shifter towards the floor, then left and up for reverse. (That one actually makes sense because it’s nigh-on to impossible to accidentally select Reverse while driving forward.)

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Keyboards were deliberately designed to slow down typing inputs because the keys would get tangled up if one typed too fast.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          While I agree that keys would get tangled in the old mechanical typewriters, QWERTY, specifically, was designed for ease of use and speed, putting the most commonly used keys under both hands where an alphabetically-arranged keyboard would have had the vast majority under the left hand. Most tangles tended to come from mis-keying where a user would accidentally hit two keys simultaneously. After all, I was trained on the old mechanicals to an average of 35wpm at the time. When I went to electrics my typing speed fell to 25wpm due to the fact that the keys were so sensitive I was consistently double-striking and hitting multiple keys simultaneously. It wasn’t until years later, after owning a personal computer (an Apple II) for about 4 years that my measured typing speed shot up past 60wpm AFTER corrections (it became a habit for me to correct on the fly; I could never just type straight through to the finish and then edit. If I had, my typing speed would have exceeded 90wpm but would probably have spent 3x as much time finding and correcting errors.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    I like my light switch on the dash and my wipers on the turn signal stalk, thanks. :-)
    Monostable shifters are useless, I agree.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      Maybe it’s because I’ve been driving mostly Japanese cars my whole life, but I’m so used to the lights being a twist the end of the turn signal stalk I always have to look when I get into anything domestic/European.

      To me it has always seemed like better ergonomics, much more easily accessible than having to reach toward the dash.

  • avatar
    bsolof

    Robert Cumberford once wrote a column about the similarity of design of all dash board controls in all GM cars. The controls were all in the same place and functioned the same way so that users who drove one GM make would instinctively know how to operate any GM car.

    I’m sure a lot of it was also based around cost cutting by using the same parts in all the cars. But it worked. When my folks went from Pontiac to Oldsmobile to Cadillac they didn’t have to deal with a learning curve.

    There are too many consumer goods (phones, computers, tablets) that change things constantly just to give the impression that the new design is better. Many times it isn’t better, just different. It makes buying something new a bit of a PITA because learning curve.

    Why would anyone design a shifter in a car that wasn’t absolutely fool proof? It should be straight forward and simple to use. Period.

    Want to get fancy with design then put a swoop in the dashboard or center console. Add lines to the body. Do anything that doesn’t make the car more difficult to drive properly.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      This. And as bunkie says below, muscle memory is paramount and what you *will* knee-jerk to in a surprise situation. It must always be the correct reflex and deliberately unchanging design policy should assure that.

      Let the frills and gadgets be confined to things that don’t make the vehicle stop, go or steer.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Automakers make their controls unique to improve consumer loyalty. The idea is that once an owner gets used to Brand X’s controls, every other brands’ cars feel strange to them. So they keep buying from Brand X.

        GM’s brand strategy was that as incomes grew, people would move from Chevrolet up the ladder to Cadillac. So keeping consistent controls made sense. The fact that standardization saves money is just gravy.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      Even worse, some (Apple) sue other manufacturers for making their devices work the same way

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      THis. I don’t see what the problem with PRNDL, or the more current PRND then move sideways for the manual gear selector. I don’t have a problem with one of the snake-like lever channels instead of a release switch either, as long as the order stays the same. It’s nearly fool-proof, and been used for at least the past 30-40 years with consistency across almost all brands.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    I think that there is an argument for this. having recently acquired a Lincoln MKZ, my wife makes fun of me when I reach for the non-existent console shifter. That’s muscle memory at work and it is very hard to overcome.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      while true, to Jack’s point at least it’s only a quick glance to the center stack to confirm what gear you’re in. Plus, I believe push-button Lincolns will automatically go to Park if you open the door.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    We’ve had our 2015 JGC for a year now. I’ve never had a problem using the shifter. In fact, I find BMW’s joystick thing-a-mabob to be far more confusing than the Jeep implementation.

    Going back to what happened to Anton Yelchin – I cannot imagine that he was on an incline, thought he put the vehicle into park, opened the door, got out, walked around behind it *and then* the Jeep rolled backward and crushed him. If it were on an incline and in neutral, as soon as his foot left the brake he would have sensed the car rolling well before moving behind it.

    We just noticed yesterday that even when in drive and on an incline the Jeep will roll back easily unless your foot is on the brake. Again, something you would notice once you opened the door and started to exit the vehicle.

    I’m not saying things couldn’t have happened as reported, I just sense that something is missing from the story.

    At the end of the day, the point remains the same: would standardized safety systems help reduce accidents?

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      With the correct, slight slope, it is very possible that he got out and the car wasn’t moving until he’d walked quite a bit. Just like if you are pushing on a very heavy door that doesn’t immediately move, sustained force (in Anton’s case, gravity) will eventually move it.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        A “slight slope” and it would’ve only crept up and not pinned Anton, let alone, crushed/killed him. There had to something way beyond *static cling* that held the truck there for a few seconds.

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          The same sustained force that gets a car moving after a few seconds is the same sustained force that can crush your insides. Additionally, the car may have rolled back quite a ways before striking him if he pulled the car 20′ or so past the mailbox.

          If his back is turned when the car strikes him, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to move out of the way. An already moving car can definitely pin you if you aren’t watching for it.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            You bring up a very good point, so looking at Anton’s very steep driveway, yes he could’ve parked a car length or more, above (on or near the street), but gates normally swing inward, especially when the street is above the house. A few feet away from the pillar, would be more likely. But who knows?

            3866 Berry Drive, Los Angeles

        • 0 avatar
          pragmatist

          I’ve seen vehicles start to roll several seconds later. It wouldn’t take much speed if he were facing the other way and did not see it coming.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Anything could’ve happened, and Anton could’ve “parked” partly on the street for a second, but you have to look at the property. Outside the gate, the steep driveway is the length of the truck or he’s blocking the narrow street, barely a lane wide, Hollywood Hills type.

    • 0 avatar
      Rocket

      The BMW joystick is at least as confusing. But there is a key difference … BMW models with the silly electronic shifter automatically jump to park when you open the door. It is still quite easy to think you’re in park in a BMW and remove your foot from the brake pedal when idling in gear.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    RE: left hand key.

    I’m going to have to go ahead and veto that one (for whatever weight that carries). I own one of these cars. There is a lot of history as to why that key is placed where it is as you know. It was a very simple process of overcome this and I actually appreciate it greatly now.

    The majority of the time as I am getting ready to exit, my right hand is turning down the radio, closing the sunroof, turning off the radar detector, grabbing my phone, etc. My left hand is always the free hand.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I’ve never seen this new shifter up close and personal .
    .
    What , exactly , occurs when you push the handle to the ‘P’ position ? .
    .
    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Nate,

      It’s not like a traditional gated shifter where the entire stalk/nub moves into static positions, clicking (thunking?) along the way. It’s a fixed ‘joystick’ and as you nudge it forward or backward the lights for the corresponding gear light up.

      If you come to a stop while in drive and tap forward just once you end up in neutral. When I *push* the lever forward and hold for a second it goes into park.

      It’s definitely different from what people are used to, like BMW, but once you’re used to how it operates, it’s no biggie.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      I strongly suspect that the reason for the ‘monostable’ shifter is someone at Chrysler got carried away with the whole retro theme, i.e., that shifter is very reminiscent of the old ‘Slap-Stick’ plastic T-handle console shifter that was used in 1970-74 Chrysler musclecars, not too far removed from the ‘pistol-grip’ shift handle that resurfaced on manual transmission Challengers.

      And speaking of Chrysler, they were also somewhat involved in the whole P-R-N-D-L automatic shifter quadrant shake-out in the late fifties and early sixties. Back in the fledgling days of automatic transmissions, GM products had a different order for their automatics. I think it was something like P-N-D-L-R (in GM products, anyway). Evidently, there were some accidents (and even deaths) that could be directly attributed to this particular shift pattern (I don’t know if the cause was a difference between manufacturers) so the government stepped in and mandated that ‘all’ automatics have the P-R-N-D-L selection pattern.

      I also don’t know if it directly applied to Chrysler products that had the old push-button automatic (Ford experimented with it earlier, too) but I think it was 1964 when the last Chrysler push-button automatic controls were used. From 1965 on, all manufacturers used some sort of mechanical selector lever (whether on the floor or column) with a P-R-N-D-L order for automatics.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        “I strongly suspect that the reason for the ‘monostable’ shifter is someone at Chrysler got carried away with the whole retro theme,”

        Or, they bought it from ZF as part of a bundle with the 8HP transmission.

        http://www.zf.com/corporate/en_de/products/product_range/cars/cars_shift_by_wire_gearshift.shtml

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          Thanx Rudiger ;
          .
          I wish I had the connection to go look at one of these things .
          .
          I well remember the earlier automatic shift quadrants , my 1954 Pontiac Coupe had this on it’s Hydromatic tranny , it also had burned valves and occasionally stalled out when backing up , I had about 2/10ths of a second to turn around in the front seat and shift it out of ‘R’ before the tranny locked up (‘R’ was also the parking gear when the engine was shut off) and began to skid the rear tires .
          .
          That was a magnificent ca but also a heavy boat =8-) .

          Billy Bob’s 1959 Chevy 3100 series Apache Panel Truck also had the Hydromatic drive because it had been a Helms Bakery truck when new , he liked it to idle at or blow 500 RPM so occasionally when backing up with no foot on the throttle , it’d lurch into first gear and reverse direction forward again….
          .
          Myself I loved the push button tranny on my 1958 Plymouth Plaza stripper Coupe , it never failed to work *perfectly* ~ I may have had the _only_ ’58 Plymouth with NO rust , rattles , squeaks or other problems…
          .
          -Nate

  • avatar
    seth1065

    So SAAB had it right way back when, all keys go between the seats, safer that way, be careful what you wish for, or Porsche will have to move the key to the right, I have not driven the Jeep so I have no idea if it is a POS design but I hope all the well paid engineers at FCA could design something that works correctly, I hope the Gov will not decide the lincoln push button shifter is the way to go.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Excellent analysis. I think I’d disagree on one point. Odd and unfamiliar placement of essential controls will surely not lead to many people getting crushed to death from a rollback, but in an emergency situation, choosing the wrong control can lead to a few moments of confusion, just enough time to allow bad things to happen. And when you consider the number of vehicles rented, there’s always a substantial number of drivers on the road not yet comfortable with the controls. Also, cars, etc. have gotten much more complicated to operate. Many years ago, the radio, as an example, had two knobs, one for on-off and volume, the other to choose the (AM) station. You could operate it without ever taking your eyes off the road. Front seats mostly slid only back and forth, another operation done strictly by feel. On top of all that, drivers seem more inept than ever before. Many of them are determined to tenaciously hug the far left lane.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    I am OK with safety orange interiors.

    When I first started driving I was surprised that interior layouts varied. I had previously assumed that they were standardized because why wouldn’t they be?

    One time I almost broke the wiper stalk off of a 2002 Honda Accord because my daily driver at that time had a column shifter.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    Tough to do, in part because I like the rotary shifter. Design differences can drive sales by enabling a positive change.

    Will every change be positive to everybody? No way.

    But a novel shifter frees up console space, and that’s added value for some.

    A better solution would be a tort or precedent law that says “if the automaker knows an unsafe condition exists it can be liable”. But we already have that right? Now we’ll just see it extended to control/design choices.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Agree with Jack. For messed around with their horn placements in the late 70’s/early 80’s. They tried ‘buttons’ on the back of the steering wheelin one configuration. In another you had to actually depress the turn signal which was a totally unnaceptable and dangerous placement, which nearly got me killed.

    Type IV VW’s with an automatic required you to lift the gear selector to move it into reverse.

  • avatar
    Rocket

    The consensus on the blogs and opinion forums seems to be that issues with the various electronic shifting devices are purely the result of human error. I guess in a technical sense that is accurate. But by making modern shifters overly complex, manufacturers have invited potential confusion into what was for decades a simple, intuitive process. If manufacturers are hell bent on saving console space, dash mounted push buttons seem to be the best option.

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    Hear Hear, Mr. Baruth.

    I’m reminded of the aviation business . Pilots generally can’t just jump into Airplane A after thousands of hours flying Airplane B. They have to take aircraft specific courses and navigate emergency drills with Airplane A before flying it for real.

    In car terms, this would be like taking a two week course at Skip Barber before being able to register a new car.

    Such an idea would be ludicrous ten odd years ago. The control layout of a 2006 530i wasn’t totally different from a Toyota Camry, which in turn wasn’t drastically different from a Chevy Lumina. The most complex computer anyone interacted with in those cars was the radio. IDrive was a complication, but IIRC you could order a BMW without it back then. In which case you got a satnav screen and a basic audio control system.

    Nowadays with family cars having enough sensors, computers, and features that rival the systems complexity of 1980s airliners , it’s damn near a practical necessity to take a transition class before changing cars.
    Even if there’s no mechanical differences like the mono stable shifter, you still HAVE to figure out the proprietary computer system if you want to do stuff like change the radio, set the climate control, etc. As a computer science grad I find it tiring. The layperson probably doesn’t even bother; until they get surprised one day like poor Anton Yelchin.

    No longer can a person jump into a car and expect the controls to work the same. Which is problematic for the same reason airline pilots can’t just jump into a different plane ; because Lever X may not do the same thing the last machine did even though it’s in the same place and acts the same way.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      There’s no reason this case should exist for automobiles. Planes have enormous differences in behavior and capabilities, cars do not. The move from one plane to another is more like the move from a sedan to a semi.

  • avatar
    kefkafloyd

    I do human interface as part of my many job functions, but not for automobiles. Still, I have always paid close attention to how certain manufacturers align controls and what (if any) philosophy they have behind it. I’ll get to shifters in a moment.

    As a former driver of GM products I was well familiar with their “do-it-all” stalk. Anyone who’s driven a GM car from the mid-eighties up to the early aughts is familiar with this monstrosity. The left turn-signal stalk controls the following functions:

    Turn signals
    Hi-Lo beam switch
    Cruise Control
    Wiper functions

    There’s a lot of settings to the latter two, which I always kind of marveled at the fact that they managed to stuff it all into one stalk. The downside is that you have to read the manual to know how to operate any of it, but I will give credit to the one upside: all of the controls had different touch surfaces, axes, and textures. You could operate that stalk by feel, in the dark, once you were familiar enough with it—and it was pretty hard to make a mistake. You knew how the set button felt, you knew where the wiper knob was. But to a person who has never driven a GM car before, it was very inscrutable. It’s not good design, but it kinda works.

    When I moved on to Mazda, I was introduced to double-stalks which I had occasionally used on other makes, but not on my daily driver. The left stalk is for lights only, the right stalk is for wipers only, and the cruise control migrated to the wheel. From a compartmentalization standpoint, this is much better. One control does one thing and all the settings go with it. Unfortunately, I never liked the placement of the cruise buttons on the steering wheel, as they are not in a good spot for when you have to babysit the cruise control. It’ll tire out your hands because they’re recessed farther into the wheel hub than the rim. They fixed this in the newer 3s, so I shouldn’t complain about it much, but it makes cruise control a far more discoverable feature.

    When it comes to AT shifters, a good gated shifter with toggle-able manual mode with pull up-down controls is my preferred option. I’ve used some wimpy gated shifters (looking at you, Toyota) that have very weak mechanical stops and are too easy to bump into manual mode or do not communicate well how you’ve shifted. The reality is that ATs have too many gears these days for the old GM-style “push button and pull down to choose a specific gear” type of shifter. You can get around that by doing paddles, a gate with a selector, or the ugliest one of all, Ford’s method of “place an up/down button on the shifter.” But they all have the common factor that you specifically, with mechanical motion, change into P, R, N, or D. You make muscle memory connections in your brain as you operate the control, and you don’t have to look at it to know what you just did.

    In theory, I do like rotary shift knobs, but you cannot make the mistake Chrysler did and put them near HVAC controls. The monostable shifter is just a completely, massively dumb design. It’s a glorified up/down pushbutton that does not indicate what state the control is in by feel. It looks like a gearshift, people expect it to behave like a gearshift, but it doesn’t! Rotary knobs at least force your brain into a different mode.

    Go pick up an AT Mazda and you’ll see what I mean about a good gated shifter. Each shift position has a distinct movement, with enough mechanical motions to let you know where you are. The pull to left to switch into manual mode requires more force than other shift actions, and they use a proper Pull back to upshift. You can swiftly shift from Park to Drive with a simple “left then down” motion and you’ll get there every time. You cannot bump from Neutral into Reverse, as the mechanicals force you to push up and right.

    Unfortunately, column shifters went out of style even though they’re still useful in trucks and other places where center consoles don’t make sense.

    • 0 avatar
      SP

      Yes, I like the squiggle gate. I never quite got it until I drove one, then it was second nature almost instantly. And the autostick part in the Mazdas does work well. I think I would prefer the option of paddles, but the lever gate on the left is good.

      Ford’s implementation of manual gear selection in the AT Focus is not so good … little up-down buttons on the side of the lever. “No way”, that is not easy to get right when you are driving fast.

    • 0 avatar
      turf3

      Center consoles don’t make sense on the, what, 90%? of current production cars that are front wheel drive. That huge tunnel covers a 2″ exhaust pipe, a 1/2″ fuel line, and a 3/4″ wiring harness.

      I would like to see at least a few cars offered for sale without the grotesquely overgrown space eating consoles.

      • 0 avatar
        James2

        “I would like to see at least a few cars offered for sale without the grotesquely overgrown space eating consoles.”

        Yeah, but then customers would complain that there’s no space for their Big Gulps and demerit the maker at CR or JD Power.

  • avatar
    Dirty Dingus McGee

    As someone who is in a rental car at least once a month, I can get behind having standardized controls. It’s enough of a pain trying to navigate unfamiliar roads, without having to learn how to drive all over again. Several times I have moved a shifter into the wrong position, tried to turn off a “key” when it only plugs in and buttons control start/stop, as far as entertainment systems; fuhgedaboutit.

    As sportyaccordy noted above about bikes, I have a 1973 XLCH and the shifter is on the right. I remember when I get to the end of the driveway but 90% of the time forget at the first intersection. Go to grab some rear brake and down shift instead

  • avatar
    Piston Slap Yo Mama

    Christ on crutches don’t these engineers have other things to do than pointlessly screwing with user interfaces? It’s literally the closest example in automobiledom to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic – and is a trend that has precedence in the car’s closest relative: the computer OS.

    Windows 2000 was Microsoft’s first cohesive OS. Windows XP polished the interface and was arguably the pinnacle of Redond’s UI’s and had the longest run before the rearranging began. Vista was a storied disaster and Win7 was a rollback to XP with compromises. Win8 screwed the pooch and Win10 … my contempt knows no bounds. Tiles? Who the fcuk ever said “oh if only my desktop was full of squares”?

    If Microsoft made cars they’d pointlessly move the accelerator pedal to the left, give you a click wheel for steering and invert the direction under a submenu with a misleading name. The analogy continues with companies claiming that, despite having SOLD you the car that they still OWN the code that runs it. They’ll sue you if you try to recompile it or otherwise reverse engineer it. I wonder how long until we have to click an absurdly large EULA icon on our car’s touch screen every time we drive it, absolving the manufacturer of any liability …

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      See, you get it, and I’m glad someone gets it.

    • 0 avatar
      Sketch

      I think your memory of Vista to 7 is a bit off. 7 was pretty much identical to Vista as far as UI went, the main changes were all under the hood performance and stability improvements.

      I would also say XP was the most disruptive and inconsistent interface Microsoft had until the release of 8. Yeah, there were _visual_ differences between XP and Vista, but they didn’t really change much as far as the way things actually worked. The main reason XP is considered “good” is because it was in the market for so long by the time Vista came out that everyone was used to it.

      While it’s fun to complain, the only point I can get out of it is “change is bad”. If we can’t have change, how can we have progress? If the government mandated a standard layout for all manual transmissions, what happens when somebody wants to add a gear? Will the government say no because R now has to move from the bottom to the top (or vice versa)?

      I do agree that they love excessive change for the sake of change in tech though. If you want to see really bad, check out all of the minor style changes in every iOS and Android release.

      • 0 avatar
        Piston Slap Yo Mama

        As one of the guys at Dell back in the day beta-testing Win2000 I can assure you it was a breath of fresh air, and XP was the same chassis with bells and whistles. XP was disruptive if you preferred the pain of a 39 floppy disk installation and liked to configure the DMA’s and IRQ’s of DOS. But that’s not my point. My point is this: POINTLESS change is bad. Like really bad. I’m all for change – when it’s a step forward, not when it’s change for the sake of change with no demonstrated need.

        As for the government angle – the oppressive State apparatus mandates you drive on the right, stop on red and ideally keep your slow driving ass out of the passing lane – and we accept the stasis of these conventions. Some elements of how we interact in society are not fit for change and others are suitable for slow and gradual evolution. A transmission shift mechanism that defies logic and crushes Chekov might be a bridge too far.

        • 0 avatar
          SP

          As a Windows user at the time, I can say that going from Windows 95 or 98 to 2000 was like the fall of the Berlin Wall. Jubilation. Free from the BSOD, at last! Free from the tyranny of inexplicable driver conflicts!

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        @Sketch

        I’d wager you haven’t spent any time around NT4, have you?

        • 0 avatar
          Sketch

          @28-Cars-Later

          I have, actually, but as the guy I was responding to started with 2000, I didn’t mention it. But you could argue that things didn’t change _that_ much between NT4 and 2000, at least as far as how things looked and changing existing behavior. Other than installation, anyway. Slackware was easier to successfully install than NT4…

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            NT4 was the devil. 2000 looked like a miracle in comparison, well at least by SP1…

            I remember seeing an NT4 box for the first time in 2005 and thought, what the hell was this?

            Disclosure: As a youngin’ we cut our teeth on DOS and 9.x, and by the time college came they were already on 2000 (coming from Novell/Win98 on the intranet). Since NT4 was never sold retail, I didn’t get the baptism by fire until much, much later.

    • 0 avatar
      turf3

      I have to do something like this (the giant “accept”) on the nav system on my new Subaru Outback. Can’t remember exactly what it is right now as the car is not here and I haven’t driven it in a couple of months.

      I really think it’s the marketeers more than the engineers who drive the “it’s different therefore it’s better” mentality. I can’t imagine real engineers would rather diddle around with placement of controls whose placement is just fine as is, than actually design improved products.

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      Oh God Microsoft. Their idiocy is like FCA times ZF times a billion. I spend a lot of time using Word and when they went to the Ribbon interface… I wanted to throw the PC out the window.

      • 0 avatar
        Piston Slap Yo Mama

        That $%^& revision of Word was the last straw. The only U.I. fcukup I can think of more egregious was when Palm OS became WebOS and threw away a decade of measured improvements before promptly spectacularly imploding. It went from a device so straightforward one could literally never bother reading the user manual to a nightmarish kludge without backwards compatibility.
        But yeah, MS Office sh1t the bed on that one. If it could’ve rolled backwards crushing people it would have.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        You do know that the hated ribbon UI was based on *extensive* review of *actual use data*, right?

        https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/jensenh/2008/03/13/table-of-contents/

        See especially — https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/jensenh/2006/04/07/no-distaste-for-paste-why-the-ui-part-7/

        “The data kept us from making a crucial, stupid mistake. One which we might not have caught during the beta due to the high expertise level of our beta users. Once we recognized the importance of the Paste toolbar button, it was promoted to the first big button on the left side of Word’s first tab.”

        People hated the Ribbon because they had to learn new things, so they just called it stupid and idiotic.

        But it wasn’t.

        It was just new, but thoroughly grounded in an understanding of how Word was actually used that literally nobody outside of MS *could have had*, from the live use data opt-in system they had.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Why were so many users upset with it then? Have you ever met a middle aged business user who said, yes I want to find time and energy to re-learn what has already become muscle memory regardless of claimed efficiency?

          This is just like Win 8, instead of giving customers options, MSFT just does what IT wants regardless of what works for you.

          You could still have Office with a ribbon add on.

          You could still have Win 8 as it was so long as there was a “desktop edition” for enterprise users with regular computers.

          • 0 avatar
            Piston Slap Yo Mama

            28CL: Yes! Make the “improvements” an opt-in experience, indeed. When that asinine ribbon interface came out I was mostly wearing my technical writer hat and authoring both Word docs as well as help files. I had to relearn the interface and unlike Sigivald’s contention that MS knew better than me, I was ready to slap the geniuses behind the pointless changes. (Sigivald are you on the Redmond payroll?)

            Automotive hardware changes however aren’t accomplished with a config file. Chrysler has some pretty extensive cut/paste ahead of them.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            That’s just my view as a customer and a developer. If your change is truly helpful most rational people will adopt it. In the case of the ribbon, this could have been a feature you could toggle on or off; not something rammed down your throat. MSFT hasn’t been rational since it cornered the PC market in the late 80s. Now the firm seems to have realized how badly it screwed up but instead of innovating seems to be spreading out its cash and diversifying for long term survival.

            FWIW: I refused to use Office 2007, and only begrudgingly started accepting 2010 about three years ago (I installed 2K3 and later Open Office on my Precision before getting a new corporate image in 2013).

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          I still hate the “ribbon”. It’s clumsy and unintuitive. It was, and still is, an inefficient interface.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Don’t blame the engineers.

      Blame the designers.

      (Also, apart from “2K was the first really good one and XP was better than 2K” this software developer and long-time Windows user disagrees with the entire follow-on analysis, structurally and practically.)

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    Since there are no more linkages involved in modern-day transmission shifters, I would like to see a return to pushbuttons, like on my old ’57 Mercury or Plymouth.

    Paddle-shifters are nice for manually changing gears in an automatic, or holding it in one gear, but for P-R-N-D, I vote for pushbuttons.

    No ambiguity there. You either pushed the button and the light came on. Or you didn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      My 2015 Volt has a PRNDL Shifter, you don’t even have to look at it to use it. (so does the new model — Pushbuttons aren’t quite as intuitive, at least to me.)

      It operates exactly as you would expect it to – no surprises.

      It even engages a *real* parking pawl in the “transmission”.

      Anybody’s grandma could drive a Volt – the bells and whistles are there, but not needed to just drive it. The infotainment is no worse than others I’ve seen, though it would be wonderful if they could make the screen default to a “2-knob radio” in some configurations (like, “Grandma’s Driving”) :-)

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        shaker, LOL, I fit in that grandma/grandpa category.

        JB brought up the topic of standardizing automotive controls and over the decades the column shifter was one of the standardized accoutrements of the driver controls. Later that include console shifters with linkage, and now monostable console shifters with only electronics.

        Maybe in the future, the instrument panel will include touch-screen controls for the transmission as well. Autonomous cars, anyone?

        I’ll never see it. I’m done buying cars. I’m on my last three now. And they’ll have to last me the rest of my life.

        • 0 avatar
          shaker

          “And they’ll have to last me the rest of my life.”

          Cripes – that’s as depressing as my response to a co-worker who asked “Why’d ya buy a Volt?”

          To which I replied: “It’s a ‘bucket list’ item.”

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            shaker, not depressing. Realistic is more like it. I know my station in life.

            I’m 70. I achieved all the goals I set for myself, and then some.

            Don’t use my vehicles for business use any longer, since I retired, so they should last me.

            My 2016 Tundra, bought 1 Feb 2016, only has less than 3500 miles on it. The 2015 Sequoia, bought Sep 15 2015, has less than 9000 miles on it, even though we use it more than my Tundra.

            The reason I bought what I did, when I did, is because I think that magnificent Tundra 5.7L is going the way of the dodo soon because of all sorts of federal mandates and regulations.

            It would not surprise me if the F150 will soon come out with a 1-liter, 3-cyl, triple-turbo, standard, that Ford wants to pawn off on the public as a real truck, like they do that Ecoboost V6.

            But I find myself grocery-getting in my 1989 Camry V6 more often than driving the trucks.

          • 0 avatar
            shaker

            “The reason I bought what I did, when I did, is because I think that magnificent Tundra 5.7L is going the way of the dodo soon because of all sorts of federal mandates and regulations.”

            That Tundra (or one like it) may end up in a museum someday, alongside the ‘Flying Scotsman’ – magnificent examples of machines that were the pinnacle of their times – but times move along…

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    The feds standardized the window up/down buttons. I still hold some bitterness over it – I absolutely loved the little Oldsmobile forward/backward things, but I got used to up/down for up/down.

    That said, there are obviously exactly two candidate designs that God ordained for transmissions:

    First Choice: Column Shifter

    It’s exactly in front of your face, and the little arrow tracks with the position. More gears? Just make it go further. It’s a circle.

    Second Choice: Floor-mounted, straight line, with physical indicators in the dash/DIC and on the shifter.

    Pull that thing in a straight line. There’s no middle seat anymore. Plus, you can screw on a little 8-ball with a spider on top of it.

    EDIT: More praises unto the column shifter. When I had a Chevy G-Van, I knew exactly what I had intended it to do when the V8 failed to roar to life, so I could know which part to be angry with.

    • 0 avatar
      IAhawkeye

      I love column shifters, people on here have complained the column shifters take up too much space, but I have to disagree(who are you, Shaq?)

      I’ve personally found GM’s column shifters to be my favorite, with the right amount of muscle needed, and very well defined detents for each each gear.

      I don’t mind the various floor mounted shifters.. except when their in trucks. Talk about a waste of space, not to mention they just seem way less convenient to use in that application.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        +++

        #ColumnShiftersSaveLives

        Eyeballs leave the road least amount of time for any method of indicator.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          I like column shifters.

          But … do people take their eyes off the road to shift while driving?

          Is that a thing?

          (In automatics? I’d hope not; WTF are you doing touching the shifter while moving?

          In manuals? I have been constantly assured here that the manual transmission’s Mystical Bond Between Car And Driver would make finding it not require looking!)

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            “do people take their eyes off the road to shift while driving”

            I wanted to amend that to “eyeballs leave the road/immediate environment..” but no could edit. As with busy parking areas or at home where a kid or pet could appear out of nowhere.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          I have two cars with monostable shifters and the “gear” is displayed right dead center on the dash in a font bigger than any old-school column shifter I’ve ever seen. Even my manual transmission cars display the gear in a display on the tachometer.

          The monostable shifter cars use a pattern to select the gear/mode. Not a straight line like the FCA shifter. So, as long as you know the pattern, you never have to look. Reach down, follow the pattern and you know what mode the car is in.

  • avatar
    redav

    An important item I think gets missed is that industry standards don’t (and shouldn’t) mean everything is the same. For example, shifters must have D and R separated by N, but there are ways to do that besides PRNDL. That’s a good regulation. Another is requiring brake depress and an active control (such as button press) to engage R. Given the failures of the monostatic shifter, I could support a rule that selected gear have a non-visual indication, such as level/knob position. I generally disagree with forcing standard locations and specific form factors.

    I have three vehicles, and each operates wipers differently. One has a rotating knob on the turn signal (left stalk), one has it on the right stalk with up=mist and down=on, and the third has it on the right with down=mist and up=on. (A previous car also had an opposite direction for fine-adjustment of the intermittent setting.) Yes, the differences/similarities of the last two can be annoying, but I do not support regulating them away.

    Controls that don’t do their job well bother me more than inconsistency. The Chevy ‘smart stalk’ with cruise control simply doesn’t do what CC is supposed to do. (It has an on-off switch that is also speed+ & a set button that is also speed-. The manual says holding the set/speed- button deactivates cruise, but it doesn’t. Deactivation requires either turning it off with the switch or using the brakes. CC is deficient without a specific deactivate command.) I also dislike Ford systems that require turning on CC every time before setting it. (I understand it’s for ‘safety,’ but I don’t feel it’s necessary or beneficial.)

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Wow. So Jack is joining the crowd that wants to remove all personal responsibility from driving.

    Once again this is not an issue with the shifter. He chose to leave his vehicle before securing it, and, fatally, he chose to get behind his Jeep while it was rolling backwards (and lets talk about the careless and reckless firm that installed the driveway at an angle).

    Blaming the shifter is like blaming a GPS unit when you drive into a river.

    And I’ve said it before, if you cannot figure out a shifter like the one in the 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee, then you should not be allowed to drive. My 77 year old grandmother can figure out this shifter.

    Again people, an ounce of personal responsibility goes a long way. Oh and don’t get behind a vehicle rolling backwards, that never ends well.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Please cite exactly where Jack wrote that he wants to remove all personal responsibility from driving.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        Did you read the article?

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Yes. I read this article, as well as just about everything Jack has written here and on R&T. What I have found is that Jack is pretty damned articulate on his own, and doesn’t need other people to invent what he didn’t write.

          • 0 avatar
            EBFlex

            Got it, so you didn’t read it.

            Read the article. He wants standards for specific automotive controls and functions. An article that was influenced by a recent story where a guy died because he chose not to secure his Jeep prior to exiting.

            By invoking that story into his opinion, he is saying (indirectly) that the shifter is at fault. Blaming the shifter is removing all personal responsibility from that situation. That guy getting killed by his Jeep should have sparked many articles on how you should make sure your vehicle is in park before exiting and why you shouldn’t get behind a runaway vehicle rolling backwards.

            But no. We have had a plethora of articles on the shifter and how supposedly flawed it is. Completely insane but very predictable in todays society.

            This is like blaming McDonalds because you got burned by the hot coffee.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            The person who died did not “[choose] not to secure his Jeep prior to exiting.”

            He did not make a “choice” to likely think he had put his car into park, after years of using cars which all worked similarly, until now.

    • 0 avatar
      cartunez

      This is what happens when you allow yourself to be ruled by “laws” alone. Very little critical thinking and or long term planning involved in todays world. Its largely follow follow follow and obey obey obey. The internet shrunk the world and most people use it to watch cat videos and look for reasons to be outraged trolling others Facebook, Twitter etc etc posting(s).

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      My seventy-one-year-old father has a monostable Grand Cherokee and he’s fine with it.

      What I’m saying here is that if the automakers don’t apply some intelligent thought to the issue, the courts will apply some incoherent thought to it.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        It is not the automakers responsibility to make sure you secure your vehicle before you exit. Furthermore, it is not the automakers responsibility to make sure you don’t get run over by your own vehicle because you walked behind it while it was rolling backwards.

        And where does this nonsense end? Does there need to be a standard for infotainment systems? How about shifter location? How about where the defrost button is? What about windshield wiper location and operation? Cruise Control probably needs a standard too right? Every vehicle I have owned has had a different type of wiper operation than the last.

        Who’s responsibility is it to take 20 seconds and learn how the wipers work? Is it mine? Could I have blamed the auto manufacturer had I killed someone because I didn’t know how to work them?

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          EBFlex,
          No one here is arguing that automakers are responsible for ensuring people secure their vehicles before they exit or prevent people from getting behind vehicles that are backing up.

          You just made those up so you could get offended.

          • 0 avatar
            EBFlex

            Yes…everyone is. By blaming his death on the shifter in this case, people are shifting the blame from the party responsible to the manufacturer. And the manufacturer had nothing to do with this…whether its ZF or Chrysler.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            “Everyone” isn’t blaming the shifter. Most are waiting for an investigation to get to the bottom of Yelchin’s death. And even if the shifter is at fault, no rational person would advise others not to take responsibility for their actions.

            Standing in front of an oncoming vehicle is never wise.

            The fact that FCA is rushing a solution to market is telling.

        • 0 avatar
          brenschluss

          If a design creates a situation wherein, during a normal lapse in attention, it is very easy to create a runaway vehicle situation, personal responsibility is tangential since it’s probably a flawed design.

          Precedents matter in our minds- it’s why the brake is pretty much always to the left of the gas, even though there’s no law I’m aware of saying it needs to be. Automakers change traditional methods of input at their peril.

          • 0 avatar
            EBFlex

            “during a normal lapse in attention”

            People have a lapse in attention driving every day. People die and the person who had the lapse in attention is held responsible.

            Also, it is not very easy to create a runaway vehicle with this shifter. You have TWO indicators that tell you what gear you are in and a parking brake (nifty!) to help you secure your vehicle.

            Saying personal responsibility is not relevant is amazingly ignorant and a true testament to where we are at as a society.

            It is ok to say it people: Anton is dead because of his own negligence. Nothing more.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            If I build a gun that fires backwards unless you push the trigger forwards, yeah, people have a responsibility not to pull that trigger backwards out of habit, but it’s still a terrible, dangerous design.

            These things are not mutually exclusive; the need to be responsible while using a dangerously designed product doesn’t excuse the design being bad.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Who says there are no innovative ways to curb gun ownership?

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      EBFlex, I’ve been reading this back and forth trying to figure out if you didn’t read, just don’t understand what you read, or are so overwhelmed by your feelings on the issue that you can’t adjust your path based on what you read; and then it hit me. I don’t care. You’re not credible. Motive and cause are not material.

  • avatar
    maserchist

    For some commentative diversion and random wild “dart” flinging. Or, just to allow you, the reader, to take pause after hypo/hyper ventilating…

    Have been conscious of cars at least 56 of the last 59 years of my life. Wooden block cars, Japanese tin can cars, plastic cars, model cars, homemade karts, hand me down (read blown transmission) cars, my own restorative measures to stop rust or the scrapman cars. It only took me about the first 15 of those years to realize a few truisms:

    #1 – All vehicles wear out and break down.
    #2 – No vehicle has ever fixed itself.
    #3 – The only part of a vehicle that cannot be fixed is the nut behind the wheel.

    Now, I realize that some readers here will take umbrage, some will react, some won’t. Civil commentary is like fly hunting, results depend
    on what you use for bait. I can troll with the best or ignore. This is not a gauntlet throwdown. I am an exmember of a certain international auto technician network whose “reality” has not been acknowledged by myself for a few years. I grew disenchanted by superior genetalia challenged group members, so I quit following them, Point being, nobody has ever fixed a vehicle over a telephone or online. The grunt in the trench, always has to wield the hammer.

    Finally, kindof sorta, random pieces of who gave a poopie; I’m not the oldest or youngest driver here. I’ve never owned a new car (almost pulled a trigger on a 75 Monza TC). I searched the world over for true love & waited for her to show up in my life (turns out she was only 5 miles away). 3 kids over 24 years. I wore out more impact guns than I can remember. Same with engines,trans,rears,wiring harnesses. I’ve broken every possible piece of glass in a car, I like Italian cars. Like the cop trying to decide what color my car was, I can be classified as “Other”

    Finally, really. I don’t want to tell anybody what to do, 2 choices –
    Have a nice day & smile OR
    Have a nice day & be pissed

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      ” The only part of a vehicle that cannot be fixed is the nut behind the wheel.”
      .
      AHA ! _now_ I know what’s wrong with all my flusherginner vehicles =8-).
      .
      -Nate

  • avatar
    b787

    The best automatic shifter design I have ever seen is in 3rd gen Prius. It doesn’t use much space and it’s simple to use, although it doesn’t physically stay in a position. But by far the most useful feature is the automatic parking mode. You can use the “P” button if you want to, but you don’t need to. You just arrive at your destination and turn off the engine and car does everything for you.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @b787
      The Leaf’s is almost identical. You use a shift pattern like a manual to select D, B, N, or R. Indicators on both the dash and the console as to the mode selected. The touch screen displays the reverse camera in reverse, and the forward camera when parking and moving forward. Instead of the P button on the dash, it’s located at the top of the shift knob.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    While we are on floor shifters, in manual mode back is upshift and forward is downshift. Even the bright/dim is different between cars and BMW sucks on how their turn signals work.

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    The last time we had this sort of agitation, the Chrysler and AMC pushbutton transmission shift pad went away. For two generations, we were cursed with the PRND2L quadrant. Still are, for the most part.

    That goes true of manuals, too. A floor or column H shift pattern is universal. WHY? Why NOT a dash paddle to slam up to upshift or down to downshift, such as with motorcycle gearboxes? With, perhaps, an electric solenoid to engage a reverse?

    Initiatives like this, once taken hold of by regulators, quash all innovation. It just STOPS development or new thinking.

    I don’t have any experience with this sort of transmission control. But I’m pretty capable of figuring out when something is safe and something is easily not-used-right. And if a Jeep has a wonky transmission control…I wouldn’t buy it. Of if I found I had problems with it, I’d get rid of it.

    Especially if I had an actor’s income. This guy chose to drive the new Statusmobile – J-E-E-P – and stay with a control he had trouble using.

    This thing should probably be discontinued – from market rejection, not from mandates by our keepers.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    It took a dominant company, Ford, to standardize the location of the steering wheel on the left side of the car. It took a dominant company, Microsoft, to standardize computer operating systems and interfaces (and the internet). It took the federal government to mandate the PRNDL shift sequence, because even GM wasn’t dominant enough in the 1960s to achieve an industry standard.

    In earlier years of this century, I’ve had to look for the headlight switch on rental Fords, since it wasn’t on the turn signal stalk – it was on the instrument panel, on the left, of all places. Then I remembered the early 1960s cars all had the light switch on the instrument panel on the left, along with the windshield wipers and washer and even early versions of cruise control. The high beams were controlled by a button on the floor on virtually every American car.

    Some controls have migrated and been combined for manufacturing economy or efficiency, and some, like the PRNDL sequence, were government-mandated for safety. The current shifter issue is a safety issue and should be addressed by the government, since manufacturers left to their own devices (and component suppliers) are going to gravitate to the cheaper alternatives.

    I just wish the shifter were returned to the steering column to open up space on the center console – and manufacturers do just that on police models. That move just might induce manufacturers to remove the excessive number controls from the steering wheel.

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      Your wish is others’ anathema.

      I’ve driven quite a few buses, twenty years ago, with ZF transmissions – a world ahead of the two-speed V-drive trannies that GMC was offering on their transit offerings in their dying bus models. I very-much preferred the setup.

      Initiatives like this will just KILL any change-the-rules innovation. Which is, while the cars of 1958 were drastically different than the cars of 1908; the cars of 1966 are depressingly similar to the cars of 2016.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Ahhhh..the dimmer switch! And a story which my Dad will never live down! TL;DR: the change may not be deadly, but it could make for a helluva story; how did some of these conventions come to be?

      Either in 1973, with the advent of the GM Collonnaides, or the downsized A-Bodies in 1978, GM moved the dimmer switch to the turn-signal stalk from the floor. (As a ten year-old reading the 1980 Olds brochure, I couldn’t tell if you pushed the stalk forward to activate the brights, or not. Not important at this point.)

      My Dad got a 1980 Olds Cutlass Sedan (essentially the new notchback 4-door version of the “Aeroback” Cutlass Salon, lionized in these pages by the author of this article; this was the base model, while the “LS” model shared its interior with the Salon Brougham and everyone’s favorite, the Cutlass Supreme, whose top-shelf Brougham trim was also a Sedan Brougham) as a new company car, and the day he picked up the car, the family was to go to some friends of my Mom and Dad’s to celebrate July 4th a little early.

      Of course, my Dad’s showing off the car, Uncle Jim is kicking the tires, and everybody’s having a great time! Until we go to leave, and a problem: the car was delivered (or PDIed) with the high-beams activated, and nobody can figure out how to turn them off! My Dad was stomping at a couple round-looking objects on the floor where a dimmer switch might have resided (while also discovering that the ignition buzzer, which in late-’70s/early ’80s GM products could wake the dead from five feet outside the car, was almost deafening when it went off right next to my Dad’s ear as he and a couple other guys were kneeling down in front of the driver’s seat trying to figure out how to make the brights a bit less so). I think at the point we gave up and started for home, I said something about “Dad, try the turn signal,” and was rebuffed (to put it mildly)!

      Driving home, annoyed drivers flashing us, I mentioned something again about the dimmer, according to the brochure, being on the column! “You’re a CHILD, what would you know about such things??!!”

      I tried one last time when we got home, and was sent to my room!

      Until twenty minutes later! Mom: “Dad wants to show you something in the garage.” I go to the garage, and my Dad is pulling back on the indicator lever, toggling the brights! “Tomorrow, when we drive to Toledo [to drop off his old company car, a ’77 Volaré wagon, “Super Six,” and recalled umpteen-bazillion times while in my Dad’s care, at corporate headquarters], you may read the owner’s manual — I might need some help on other stuff!”

      I read the thing cover-to-cover!

      I’ve wondered if there are some sorts of international standards for which cars must be designed, as Honda, at least, went from the pull-and-release dimmer to actually flicking the lever forward to toggle the brights (while leaving the momentary switch for flash-to-pass only); I know Mazda had the latter at least since the late ’80s 323s. Something else is the always-on tell-tale for the passenger airbag: until the new Civic, the light came on if the bag was deactivated, as if you had a briefcase or something on the seat. Now the light is always lit unless the bag is deactivated. (I prefer the former.) B&B, any ideas as to why these two standards came to be?

      • 0 avatar
        JustPassinThru

        The turn-signal dimmer switch was a Volkswagen innovation – or at least introduction in the States. From IIRC 1967, it was on the turn signal stalk on Beetles, etc.

        I had a 1972 Super Beetle, my first car in my own name, and I thought it was great. Most other owners did, too – and so GM adopted it for their import-fighter Chevette. As with most things GM did, it was on the cheap – and mine quickly broke, three months after purchase.

        VW used a relay to work the switch on the fuse block. GM put the actual mechanical switch in the column – which must have cost more but which took less thought.

        Anyway…from then the Omnirizon got it; and then the Fox-bodied Fords; and it was all over.

        This came from a LACK of compulsory control specifications. Innovation. Which was an improvement.

        Technology always changes, but specifications are forever. We were until 1986 ridding ourselves of 1940 specifications for sealed-beam incandescent headlights. Not for want of technology but for the inertia of regulatory bureaucracy.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “It took a dominant company, Ford, to standardize the location of the steering wheel on the left side of the car. It took a dominant company, Microsoft, to standardize computer operating systems and interfaces (and the internet). It took the federal government to mandate the PRNDL shift sequence, because even GM wasn’t dominant enough in the 1960s to achieve an industry standard.”

      The left hand wheel position is not a “standard” in the sense you describe; several nations use right hand drive now 100 years later and Ford has built right-hand drive vehicles for those nations pretty much from the beginning.

      Computer operating systems are NOT standardized by Microsoft and MS itself is moving farther away from its DOS-based Windows platform towards Linux, which is strangely similar to Unix which is still in use and was standardized by AT&T back in the ’50s. Apple uses one of the most current iterations of Unix itself.

      Even so, you say the government mandated the PRNDL shifter layout yet the government chose to ignore other forms of automatic transmissions (push button) and manual transmissions (reverse on the left, up or down (or even push down), reverse on the right up or down, etc. There is very little real standardization there and obviously the regulation itself must have expired considering how many new kinds of gear selectors are now available in the automotive market. How is it, if the layout is governmentally mandated, that we can have so many different transmission gear selector layouts today?

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I think even the Prius, which seemed to start the trend of the weird patterns, has Reverse and Drive separated by Neutral.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Here’s a question for you: Why do we even HAVE Neutral? It’s an unnecessary setting outside of the fact that it puts a ‘spacer’ between Reverse and Drive. Most times when you would put a car into Neutral you’re usually sitting stationary anyway, so why not just put it into Park?

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            towing.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Drag it up on a roll-back. Or if you’re camping use a dolly; most cars are NOT “flat tow” certified.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Some cars (all new ones, maybe? Not sure) unlock the doors when you put them in Park. In some situations, this is undesirable.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “Some cars (all new ones, maybe? Not sure) unlock the doors when you put them in Park. In some situations, this is undesirable.”

            Hmmm… Never run into that one. I agree, it’s not necessarily a desirable event, especially if you’re in a questionable location. I can see each door manually unlocking when you go to open it (if the child safety locks are disabled) or manually hitting the Unlock button on the driver’s door to release the locks, but not an automatic unlock of all doors.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            I’m glad you asked. “Neutral” is there for safety reasons and all drivers should be taught what it’s for. If you’re driving and the throttle sticks or is jammed wide-open, go to Neutral. If you need to push the car out of a travel lane or intersection, especially if you dcan keep the engine running, go to Neutral.

            There’s likely a few more reasons, including automated car washes, but driving isn’t about “Most times…”. You have to be prepared for anything and everything. Consider it your survival training.

            You can “flat tow” or “tow truck” tow on the drive axle, in Neutral, for short distances, and or emergencies.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            For once, Denver, you are right. And that’s exactly why I asked the question. The point is that it is too easy to go into neutral when it is a “special purpose” setting that could be as easily effected today by simply doing the opposite of locking the differential; and electrical or manual unlock separate from the transmission and just as easy to activate as electric lockers (including the automatic lockers on recent pickup truck models.)

            That would also make flat tow and tow truck movement easier.

  • avatar
    Shinoda is my middle name

    Can’t believe, Jack, that you of all people, a person for whom the electronic traction control nannies are anathema, are espousing the government of the US standardize how we interface with our cars, in a one-sized-fits-all-intellects mandate.

    If you aren’t sentient enough to a. recognize that you are getting into an unfamiliar car or onto an unfamiliar bike and/or b. smart enough to familiarize yourself with the basic controls before you start the engine, you aren’t smart enough to have a drivers’ license. Period. And therefore you and your genes should be culled from the gene pool for all eternity.

    And actually, why would the OEM’s dump millions in tooling and re-design money to develop a standard design and them implement it, when all driver control interfaces are going to become moot in about a decade or so, when the Google-ization of the American roadway will become complete and autonomously driven cars will render the steering wheel, shift lever and headlights as useless as the hand-crank.

    No, given the incipient death of any shred of automotive distinctiveness, I say go the other way–urge the OEM’s to be as creative as possible in differentiating their control interfaces…in a last gasp of design distinction.

    But as for me, if some OEM would style their auto-trans shift interface after the late ’60’s-early 70’s MOPAR “Slapstick” shifter, I’d be a customer….

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      This post, along with mine, are some of the very few rational and sensible posts in this thread.

      You couldn’t be more correct. Again, an ounce of personal responsibility goes a long way and if you can’t take the time to learn a very simple to use shifter, you shouldn’t be allowed on the road.

      You sir, are a breath of fresh air.

      • 0 avatar
        brenschluss

        I’m sending you the first prototype of my new two-way gun. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the controls before firing!

        Have you ever made a mistake while using any sort of human-designed UI? Rhetorical question of course, if you say no, you’re a liar. I’m guessing by your continued existence that these mistakes have not lead to your death- lucky you.

        The day you find yourself maimed because a design choice that facilitated your daily mistake that day happened to be attached to a giant weapon, maybe you’ll see what everyone else is trying to tell you.

  • avatar
    relton

    Standardization of controls has been a cause of mine for years. I think I even wrote an article about it for TTAC some years back.

    Chrysler has the monostable shifter solely because BMW has it. I’ve been in meetings where this was discussed and decided. ZF likes to sell these, but if you’re committing to buy a million transmissions, ZF will sell you any kind of shifter you want, and wrap it in pink bows as well. In fact, some Chrysler cars with the 8 speed ZF transmission do not have the monostable shifter.

    Moral of that story: just because BMW does it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

    In the early days of airplanes, lots of pilots were killed because the controls weren’t standardized, even among the same make of plane. There is good documentation that when Pearl Harbor was attacked, pilots tried to take off in plane they weren’t used to flying, and couldn’t figure out how to get off the ground. Lots of people killed, lots of planes lost, and even more ships sunk. The military forced control standards immediately, based on the DC 3 because it was the most common plane in the army-air force.

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    “Moral of that story: just because BMW does it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.”

    True. And just because one buyer doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean it should be BANNED.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Not gonna lie… when I switch between my ’90 Integra and my ’13 Sonic, I have trouble remembering where Reverse gear is.

    (Down and right on the Integra, up and left on the Sonic.)

    Oh wait, you guys are talking about shiftless transmissions. Never mind.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Part of the argument is now a moot point; that particular shifter style seems to already be off the market by all brands, though will take a while to disappear entirely. As for standardizing, each manufacturer is trying to maintain some level of uniqueness between corporations and to some extent between corporate brands. Admittedly most of this is in the appearance and comfort of the vehicles themselves but some still resides in how the vehicle is controlled. For instance, there are automatic transmissions and there are auto-clutching transmissions that include but are not limited to fully automatic functionality.

    There’s a difference between those two types that help some drivers revert to the manual’s greatest advantage, controlling torque for best performance–and I don’t mean just sporting. As an example, one of my cars offers auto clutching and demonstrated a 10% improvement in fuel economy over the same car under full-automatic on a hilly Pennsylvania route over state and county roads (not Federal highways.) By flicking up- or down-shifts to maintain a certain speed over some relatively steep hills and around curves, I avoided the necessity of braking to slow the vehicle down while surprising a number of following vehicles in climbing those grades as the vehicle type has an ancient reputation for being dog-slow, especially with an automatic. The 40-mile route averages 31.5-33 mpg when driven in full automatic yet yesterday, in 90°F temperatures and the AC running, I achieved 35.6 mpg by using the auto-clutch capability. The car? A 101hp 1.6L Fiat 500.

    The point? It’s standard enough that anybody can drive it but different enough that a skilled driver can make it exceed the status quo. This is the third time I’ve taken the route and actually measured the mileage, once in ‘normal’ auto, once in Sport mode and now in auto-clutch mode. So just because the Monostable shifter is different doesn’t make it better or worse than the others; it’s how it is used. It requires a little more thought and attention to use it than a conventional shifter and that is why people are having trouble with it. I see other people offering similar complaints about the shifter dial, now fairly common in some American pickup trucks and SUVs, though those haven’t yet caused any accidents of which I am aware.

    Oh, and personally I’m not a fan of total standardization. There are fewer thefts of manual-transmission vehicles in large part because the thieves themselves often don’t even know how to drive a stick. At best it means casual theft just to take a joy ride either doesn’t happen or the thief is taking it for a more specific purpose. Sometimes that difference is a security advantage.

  • avatar
    Michael McDonald

    This is just getting ridiculous to me. People need to learn to use their cars before leaving the dealership! Personally, I’m a salesperson (hate on me all you want) and I will not let my client leave until they tell me they are 100% comfortable with all of the controls in the car. I even QUIZ people on the harder things before they leave if I don’t believe them! I’ve spent as little as 5 minutes and as much as two and a half hours with my client to assure this. I’ve sold Toyota’s, Cadillac’s and now BMW’s – not to mention the various off-brands I sold. If I didn’t understand the car before they picked it up – you bet I was out learning it so I could teach it correctly. There is wayyyyyy too much liability that could come back to myself or the dealership when it comes to the complexity of cars today. I do this for the same reason I won’t install a child seat for my clients – what if something ever went wrong?! We do live in a sue-happy society and I will not accept that risk.

    It doesn’t come down to regulation. It comes down to personal responsibility and the harder part – proper training so your salesperson goes over the car properly.

    Just my 0.02

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Michael McDonald is a car sales rep? Wow, I guess those stories about music royalties being driven down by the shift to subscription services is really true.

      You didn’t save *any* of that Chicago money?

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        “Sir, this car will improve your life minute by minute.”

        “I think a Toyota would be more reliable.”

        “That’s what a fool believes.”

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      Personal responsibility is very important. However to muck things around just to be different is stupid. In this case it appears that not only is it different just to be different, but it provides no benefit, maybe harder to use.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      “100% comfortable with all of the controls in the car”

      I assume you aren’t including infotainment systems?

      Because *damn*.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I’m surprised the automatic gear selection in the Mercedes GLK350 hasn’t killed anyone that we’re aware of. It is odd to operate and it is reversed from logic – with pulling it down putting you in reverse, and tapping it up having you go forward. Anyone who has ever driven a column shifter and pulled it out of park will feel down is go (ya ya ya and a column shifter down is also reverse depending where you stop it, but it’s counter intuitive the way the Germans designed it)

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      I think it’s the opposite of what you’ve written– up for reverse, down for forward– push the button for park. My partner and his Husband both drive Mercedes cars and I always put them in neutral because pushing through the detent for reverse is not intuitive(like in the Chrysler shifter, which I also hate– because: manual) like it is in a normal car.

      It’s always good practice to stand on the brakes until you’re sure which gear you’re in!

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        That feels right from what I remember from test driving a GLK250.

        Yep:

        http://image.automotive.com/f/mercedes-benz-glk-class-2013-road-test/43040500/2012-mercedes-benz-glk-350-column-shifterjpg.jpg

        Reverse up, Go down, press to park.

  • avatar
    shaker

    The reason that the shifter needs fixed is that it just wasn’t a good way for a person to die.

  • avatar
    orenwolf

    Agreed. Excellent article.

    I’m not sure if *position* matters as much as behaviour, though. I’ve been in enough rental cars to realize that every manufacturer has a totally different idea of how all these interfaces should actually function, and it drives me nuts.

    Looking around for s thing that, once I find it, behaves how I expect it to is miles easier than looking for a thing that may not even bahave like I thought, should I even find said thing.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    >>> hell of a time remembering how to shut down a Panamera in a hurry, particularly if it’s your first Porsche <<<

    Fortunately, all of your Porsches, just like mine, have a dedicated pedal that mechanically disconnects the engine from the rest of the drivetrain. That's a pretty standard-position and standard-operation pedal. On newer Porsches, you need to depress the pedal before the car will start, which verifies that you are able to operate the pedal.

    That said, I’ll say that the key-on-left is terribly poor ergonomics when getting into the car. Given the way the door swings open for the driver, you use your left hand for the door handle. Therefore, the key has to be in your right hand for that operation and you need to switch it to the left hand at some later time. On the other hand, when “parked” in silicon valley traffic (at a 2 minute light, for example), the position does make it easier to start the car while simultaneously shifting into gear and releasing the parking brake.

    As for the murderous Grand Cherokee shifter, it's just plain bad design. The state of important controls should be able to be seen as well as felt.

    As far as the unfortunate death…. the guy lives in California, where using a parking brake when parking (in public) is required. Isn't setting the parking brake before getting out of the trucklet part of "muscle memory" for this guy? If not, isn't setting the parking brake when parking on a hill just plain common sense?

  • avatar
    pacificpom2

    Perhaps the day will come when you have to pass a driving test, knowledge of the road laws and demonstrate controlling a vehicle, plus an operators’ certificate to demonstrate you know how to operate that particular vehicle. This is why Pilots transitioning between different makes of aircraft i.e Boeing and Airbus, under go extra training. I have the same issue here occasionally, I drive a “M” class and a Freemont, (don’t laugh) both with controls on the same side of the wheel, I then drive a Toyota and the controls are reversed. Many a time I have gone for the indicators and ended up with wipers! Standardising is one thing, proper knowledge of how your vehicle works is another. Of course this will be moot when the autonomous car is the only way of transportation :(

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Well, I’ll again be touted for being an “American Basher”.

    Here is the way it is; There is a system in place that more or less has standardisation of controls better than the current US system.

    It’s called the UNECE Vehicle Harmonisation. Yes standardised controls (more or less).

    Again, I use Australia as a reference because our ADR (Aussie vehicle Regualators) have decided to allow US imports into the country (free economy). These vehicle are quite backwards in some respects to the Asian/Euro vehicles that seem to be better able to have controls all in the same location within a vehicle. These controls appear to be more ergonomically situated, or it can be attributed to the commonality between vehicles.

    Don’t get me wrong here, the UNECE can do better and I do believe the US will come on board (as I’ve read), ever so slowly.

    Here’s a cut and paste to what I consider ridiculous US policy;

    “The most notable non-signatory to the 1958 Agreement is the United States, which has its own Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and does not recognise UN type approvals. However, both the United States and Canada are parties to the 1998 Agreement. UN-specification vehicles and components which do not also comply with the US regulations therefore cannot be imported to the US without extensive modifications.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Forum_for_Harmonization_of_Vehicle_Regulations

    So, the way I see it is the problem is mainly US centric and caused. Even UNECE high beams are better, but less chrome is allowed on vehicles to allow this to occur. I couldn’t imagine one of those “big rig” grilles on a pickup with less chrome!

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Canada follows USA standards with most things automotive because our market is 10 times smaller. Add to that the AutoPact of 1965 harmonized auto trade between the two countries. NAFTA took over from the Auto Pact. It makes no sense harmonizing with the rest of the world when most of our vehicles comes from the 800 lb gorilla next door. Our parts still count as “USA content”. Why f^ck that up?
      With that being said, global harmonization makes sense.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Lou,
        I can’t see no reason why the world can’t have a similar set of regulations.

        I believe driver training is also to blame here. It should be an offence to not set a handbrake in an unattended vehicle, like wearing seat belts.

        The use of a park brake should be habitual. I can’t people rely on a tiny pin in a transmission to hold a vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      The UNECE chose a totally different path than preexisting US regulations for auto emissions, crash safety, etc., at the point UNECE designed Euro spec regulations with almost maniacal protectionism built in. They ‘zig’ everywhere US regs “zag”. It’s comedy.

      If headlights are such a big deal, or a “trade barrier” why do Euro car makers insist on changing to *red* (tail light) “turn-signals” when the US accepts normal, Euro *amber* turn signals, which btw, the UNECE won’t bend on.

      Of course you know catalytic converters weren’t required in Europe until 1992 and airbag, passive restraints still aren’t a requirement.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        DenverMike,
        I will attempt a logical debate with you. Can you achieve this?

        First, I’m discussing the model of the UNECE system and the commonality that exists between all participating nations.

        The UNECE system was first developed by the EEC back in 1952, prior to what the US put forward in 1967 in what was DOT. Back then the Europeans realised a system was needed to better facilitate trade between them. Over time this has been extended to most all nations globally. But, the level of implementation is proportional to what a country can afford to use as an automobile. It would be naive to expect India to have vehicles with the same levels of safety and emission as we do in the US, Canada, Germany, Australia, etc. Countries like India just don’t have the resources we have available.

        The US at that time was by far the largest vehicle market globally. By the 60s the US manufacturers realised that the EU and Japanese were making to big an inroad into the Big 3(4)’s turf. VW had little pickups, Europeans were importing along with the Japanese little cars that were cheap to the US consumer. Little Japanese mini trucks came over. The chicken tax actually applied to only pickups and not the cab/chassis variants initially (hence Australia’s love for cab/chassis pickups with traybacks, the US influenced our “utes”). The pickup beds were installed in the US. Then in the very early 80s the regulations controlling the chicken tax tighened further to include cab/chassis pickup. That’s another story.

        So, when Lyndon Johnson with the UAW and the US auto manufacturers got together they decided something must be done to protect themselves from the “foreign” invasion of vehicles.

        This left the US government is sort of a conundrum, how can the US present itself as a country to dictate “freedom of trade” for it’s own interest whilst impeding the onslaught of foreign products to protect it’s auto industry, along with the whining UAW, which are Democrat supporters with Johnson. As I stated this is why and when the Chicken Tax occurred along with DOT, the future purveyor of technical barriers that are impacting the US market this day and age.

        So, some overt and protective measures along with some subtle measures were used to protect the US auto industry. The overt are is the 25% tariff (Chicken Tax) and the technical barriers created initially started by DOT, then NHTSA.

        What we now have is a Beta vs VHS situation. Both formats work, but which one should be adopted?

        I’d say the US should adopt the UNECE version and use it’s influence to improve the automobile globally. Rather than using the EPA, NHTSA, direct taxes etc.

        It makes sense.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          The UNECE does precede the EPA and DOT, except the UNECE didn’t start to deal with automotive safety/emissions until a few years after the start the EPA and DOT.

          The UNECE dealt with automotive *uniformity* between participating nations. Meaning you could be driving from Germany to France and be assured if your German car needed tires, you’d find them there or along the way. Exact fit. Or 12 volt batteries with terminals just like back home. And French cars, for example, could sell in Germany without all sorts conforming modifications. Same, headlights, light bulbs/sockets, motor oil, anti-freeze, PS fluid, etc.

          Everything would have worked out fine, regulation-wise, if the EU/UNECE had followed the US EPA/DOT/NHTSA lead, with all the ground work done, instead of throwing a wrench in the whole deal, for trade protection only, making sure everyone on both sides loses. Asinine is right!

          The EU has a Chicken tax against the US too. It’s not called the Chicken tax but it’s similar 22.5% against US pickups. But more importantly, the EU has an unrealistic, insane 10%, “chicken type” tax against US cars imported into the EU.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            EU isn’t gonna matter much pretty soon.

            The natives are restless.

          • 0 avatar
            derekson

            “EU isn’t gonna matter much pretty soon.”

            The EU isn’t going to *exist*, never mind matter. A few more nations vote to leave and the whole thing comes crumbling down.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            If what’s happening in the UK is any indication, there is far more likelihood that the UK will re-join the EU than more countries leaving.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Beyond throttle, brake, clutch and manual gearing, there’s not much standardization of switch gear on bikes, either. Which makes sense, as there’s really no one-size-fits-all way of doing it. The Goldwing, and for the longest time Acura cars, relied on a million buttons, while BMW has IDrive and it’s MC equivalent. Who’s to say what’s best? Heck, Honda has taken to flip around blinkers and horns on many recent models, even with manual trannies, supposedly in order to “standardize” operation between said manual models and their automatic brethren. Other makes doesn’t even have autos yet, on bigger bikes.

    There is a natural tendency towards de facto semi standardization, simply as a requirement to be abel to sell. Noone would buy a car with the brake pedal in the trunk, official standards or not. Ditto, by now, for gas pedals and brake pedals reversed. But wrt paddle shifters, some have buttons for up and down, others back and forwards, others left down, right up….. All good, as noone will ever have a definitive answer to what is, in abstract, best. But, over time, if they prove popular enough, soft standards will emerge.

  • avatar
    nsrla

    My 2017 A4 has the same operation as the A8 with the button for park. It took a little getting-used-to and I still don’t understand the advantage of it. It’s not as annoying as BMW, but it’s unnecessarily complicated.

    However, in the Audi, if you open the driver’s door (not sure if it works for the passenger door as well), the parking brake automatically engages to prevent the car from rolling even if you are in drive. Not sure if Jeep has this, but it could have helped in the situation with the actor.

  • avatar

    I don’t know what “flash to pass” is, but it really sounds like the worst idea every to leave Jack’s mind and land on his keyboard. It may involve a first-rate idiocy like flashing your high beams for no reason.

  • avatar
    Beelzebubba

    As someone who travels for work and rents at least 30-40 cars per year, I wholeheartedly agree with standardization!

    It is infuriating trying to drive a rental vehicle that has no Owner’s Manual (they remove them) and the controls are neither intuitive nor logical. I’ve dealt with the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s ridiculous shifter several times in my travels. I found it very irritating from the first time I saw and used it. But last August (2015) in L.A., it caused me to get in a dangerous situation that could have caused an accident.

    My rental was a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4WD. It was actually a pleasure trip (to visit my cousin) rather than work, so I had the rental for a full week. My frustration started as a I merged frantically onto “the 405” and inadvertently engaged the manual/paddle shifters. I drove for at least 10 miles shifting up and down through the gears manually depending on highway speed (luckily I arrived around midnight, so traffic was light). I finally figured out that I could move the shifter into Neutral and back into Drive and it would cancel the ‘manual’ function.

    But the scary situation was a few days later, when I was making a U-turn on a busy street with 3-lanes of traffic in each direction. I thought I could make the U-turn quickly and get up to speed with traffic very quickly. But the turning radius of the JGC was too large and I didn’t clear the curb and needed to back up slightly to finish turning around. I struggled with trying to get into R from D with that stupid shifter, but after a few seconds, I decided the safest option was to just continue forward OVER the curb and landscaping that was blocking me from making my full u-turn. It was 4WD (and rented) so I felt I made the right choice.

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