Keyless cars - why?
I think that driving is probably the everyday place where we most come into contact with the pointy end of design. A lot of ergonomics is about the design of work places – cockpits, nuclear power stations control rooms, oil rigs, intensive care units. Places where us ergonomists in the wild rarely tread. However, when we sit in the driving seat, we have a whole range of buttons, levers, and dials at our finger (and toe) tips. As a result, I think I will be talking about cars a lot on this blog, and here is the first one…
And it is one, my fledgling readership, I would love to hear your thoughts on – the rise of the keyless car. It is something I have long been unsure of, and here is my ergonomist thinking about why.
First of all, keyless cars don’t mean no key – while there are plenty of specialist companies that offer biometric car security, it is not available as an option for the everyday cars currently on the market. That means there is still a need to carry a key with you to lock, unlock, and start your car.
No problem fixed yet.
Then, once you get into your keyless car - and press the magic button to start it (there is something beautiful and tactile about pressing a button and hearing the engine burst into life) – I am always left with the question of what I do with my keys. I could put them in a pocket (assuming I am in an outfit with a pocket) – but I have lost many things down the side of my car seat. So they end up taking up valuable cup holder space. As opposed to the old fashioned key operated car, which came with a handy holder in the ignition, where my keys were kept safe and sound while I drove the car.
Still no problem fixed.
Finally, and this is probably where my biggest issue comes – how do I know when the car is locked!! I am a long way from issues with OCD, but I enjoy a good “did I lock my car, let me just pull the door handle to know it is locked” as much as the next person. But with proximity sensor keys the car helpfully unlocks itself thinking I want to get in (I realise the car doesn’t think, but that is how we explain the actions of inanimate objects).
New problem created.
I expect that many car companies with their human factors teams will come up with clever solutions to solve these potential issues. However, for me keyless cars come back to the simple question of are they better than the design before – and I am yet to be convinced.
Don’t take this as a critique against remote central locking – fabulous, or keys that fold away neatly on your key ring – love those, but I would love to understand others experience of using keyless technology in cars. Does it do it for you? What works? What doesn’t? What have I missed?