Sunday, May 18, 2008

A new way to drive

In my continued search to make the world accessible to myself, with a still healing broken ankle, I contacted a local mobility company to find out about making my car accessible. There seem to be no great temporary fixes, but Enterprise Rent a Car actually rents out cars with hand controls. (Mobility devices such as left hand controls with spinner knobs, left foot accelerators and pedal extenders are available at no additional charge. In fact, I got a great deal)
They leave the foot pedals on and leave the hand controls. My thoughts after a few days of using this. My key to some freedom!
  • Making all cars with hand controls would significantly cut down on the amount of distracted driving. You must have one hand on the wheel and one on the controls at almost all times. No cell phones, no makeup application, no eating or drinking. A pro and a con. Would it make for safer driving?
  • The brain is imminently adaptable. About 14 years ago, (about 12 years after I learned to drive) I fell in love with a manual car. I bought it and learned to drive it. Lo these many years later, I spent 2 days driving with no radio and no passenger, paying total attention to the motions forward > brake, down > gas. Not to mention trying to be sure my reflexes didn't move to the floor pedals altogether. It seems to have taken...mostly.
  • Human factors and user experience people abound in automotive design, trying to make intuitive controls on the dash and an easy to use "cockpit" but is anyone really deconstructing driving itself? Is sitting in a seat, sipping a cup of hot coffee, steering a wheel and pushing pedals still the best solution? What about moving your body to control the direction of the car, or again, hands, shoulders, arms, head -- can they engage? I'm no auto designer but it seems like this area is ripe for a full redesign. Maybe we can get Apple to take a stab at it! Some interesting ideas from the big guys, a Segway type car and of course, Fusion Man(though that landing might have a serious impact on the health of anyone's ankles!)

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