Sunday, March 03, 2013

The User/Car Interface: Confusingly Documented.


This morning I weighed 216.4 pounds.

I rented a Ford Taurus on vacation, and it came with a 500+ page manual. There is no excuse for this gigantic tome. Ford has published a one-size-fits-all manual, covering every possible variation of options. The single most common phrase in the manual is “if equipped”. The car owner has to wade through dozens of irrelevant pages to decide how to control the car that he or she happens to own. (I’m blaming Ford here, but I believe most other car manufacturers commit the same manual-publishing sin.)

I think the worst case of these “if equipped” sections concerns the three possible key options. All sorts of matters differ depending on whether you got an old-fashioned car key, a key that can open the doors remotely, or a key that never goes into an ignition (and the car senses its proximity).

This is the 21st century! I’ll tell you how the big car companies should print their manuals: On Demand. The dealer should make the car’s computer communicate with the printing computer. (The car’s main computer must know what options the car has.) Then the printing computer will print a manual with the owner’s name on it, containing only the text relevant to the options in the owner’s car.

It’s so simple. How long do we have to wait for car manuals like that?

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