Above is a close look at the climate controls of the new 2018 Ford Expedition. They seem rather unremarkable, typical Ford-like, as they have been for many years now. These controls are located below the infotainment screen and below the radio buttons and knobs. Basically, these are the lowest placed items in the vertical section of the center pod of the dash.
Say you’re driving your new 5500-pound Expedition at 75 MPH on the highway. You decide that you must change the heated seat setting from two dashes to one. You try to find the button by feel but they are all located near each other, and all feel the same. Instead you accidentally press the “fan-” button. Doing so you took the climate control off the automatic mode and you still haven’t reduced the temperature of your seat.
You curse and you look down. You’re now looking for two buttons, the “auto” to get the climate control back into the automatic mode, and the heated seat button which you were originally trying to press. Say it takes you three seconds to complete the task of finding and pressing these buttons.
How far has your 5500-pound Expedition traveled in that time?
2018 Ford Expedition
330 feet. That’s how far you have traveled in those three seconds when your eyes were down, away from the road, looking for two stupid buttons.
Chances are nothing would jump out in front of you in those three seconds. Many cars are now equipped with technology the beeps at the driver and/or slams the brakes in the vehicle senses a potential accident, and surely is so is the new Expedition. And it’s by far not the only thing that can distract a driver and force his or her eyes off the road, but it is one that was designed into the vehicle, unlike one’s phone.
In this control panel are two temperature knobs. Each knob can be pressed, left for power, right for zones. Between them are seventeen buttons organized in three rows. Guesstimating by the good old DIN-size, the area these seventeen buttons are on is about six inches by 2.5 inches. That would make each button about one inch wide and half an inch high. And there are seventeen of them clustered together, basically the same in size and feel.
2016 Ford F-150
Had Ford given this design more thought, perhaps they would combine some buttons and eliminate others. For example:
- Why are there two windshield defroster buttons? Why can’t the same button be pressed twice for “max”?
- Since each knob is an individual temperature controller, why not integrate the other individual setting, the heated/ventilated seat setting into these knobs? Jaguar did it.
- Why not a third knob which directs the air between feet, head, and the windshield? Look to Subaru for that. Rear window defogger and recirculate buttons could be slapped into that as well.
- Why not combine the AC and MAX AC buttons? Press once for AC, twice for MAX.
- Heated steering wheel buttons work best on the steering wheel. Unfortunately the same guy who designed the HVAC control panel designed the steering wheel controls and its twenty buttons!
More examples of simplification can be made. Same goes for the audio control buttons and the mentioned steering wheels buttons. In each case there are many of them, they are all the same, and all clustered together. That’s just a poor and lazy design.
2016 Ford Mustang EcoBoost
Now Ford would rightfully answer this by saying that many, if not all, of these functions can be accessed through Ford’s excellent SYNC3 system. And with automatic climate controls getting smarter and smarter, most of these buttons will be seldom used. And Ford would be right. But if that’s really the case, then why even have these buttons at all?
Ford is definitely not the only offender in this button-loving design, but because all of their buttons are almost the same, and all placed in line, next to each other, they do have the worst design. It’s it’s not just one or two models, it’s on all of them. I think the new Ford vehicles really are great. I loved both the and the I recently reviewed, but both of these vehicles had a dash design very similar to the new Expedition and it drove me nuts!
Why wouldn’t a large company such as Ford hire someone with a good sense of ergonomic design? And why would a team of people sign-off on such a design? C’mon, Ford, you make some excellent vehicles, you have had some awesome technical and design ideas lately, why can’t you get this right?