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    My wife (who drives more than I do) hates the way Tesla keeps changing the UI. It’s a terrible thing to do to a device that can easily kill you and/or nearby people if you get distracted while operating it. A task that you think you can do by muscle-memory stops working, and it’s easy to accidentally become distracted because your instinctive reaction is to start looking for where the damn button went, even if your forebrain knows better. I have experienced this myself.

    I can think of ways to progressively update the UI, letting the user opt into changes instead of just making them a fait accompli after an overnight software update, but that doesn’t seem to have occurred to the people at Tesla. Of course this is par for the course — they’ve had other genius ideas like letting you play video games on the dashboard while driving, or having the self-driving mode coast through stop signs. Jesus Christ.

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      having the self-driving mode coast through stop signs

      This bit is not true.

      It doesn’t “coast” through stop signs, but emulates (pretty faithfully) how most people accomplish this maneuver: it slows down before the sign to a very slow crawl and then proceeds through it if there’s nothing interesting around. They call it “California stop” for some reason, but in my home state of Washington people do exactly the same.

      Further are my opinions.

      From a self-driving car it’s actually less dangerous than from a person, as the computer never gets lazy to look around and make sure it can go. Also, it has always been an option in a beta program, and it is being evaluated by testers like every other aspect of behavior, so I don’t see anything different here from the whole idea of letting people train self-driving cars on roads.

      I actually think NHTSA is wrong calling it a potential safety issue and barring Tesla from enabling it. Because the full-stop behavior will be surprising to other drivers who are used to everyone rolling over stop signs. Just like driving at the actual speed limit, as opposed to 5-10 mph over it, is a greater safety hazard in many cases.

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        Nevertheless, I am told (but have not verified) that the rolling-stop is illegal (at least in CA), even if the police aren’t pulling people over for it. If I were implementing a self-driving system, I think I’d make sure it wasn’t explicitly breaking any laws. (Sure, you can set any car’s cruise control to exceed the speed limit, but this is different; the car is in control and all the driver did was choose the “asshole” (sorry, “assertive”) mode.

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          I can’t remember the last time I came to a full stop at a stop sign when I didn’t have to. I have rolled through stop signs in front of cops and never been pulled over for it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          Does a law matter if following the law goes against common accepted conventions, even conventions accepted and followed by police?

          For example, in some towns in the US, it’s convention for the 2nd car at a green light to yield for the driver going the opposite direction if the opposing driver is turning left. A self-driving car that fails to yield in this circumstance could cause a collision by betraying the expectation of the opposing driver turning left. In this case, the self-driving car would be the party following the law, but also responsible for the crash.

          I don’t really see how coming to a full stop at a stop sign could cause a similar issue, but it illustrates following the letter of the law is not necessarily the best course of action in all cases. The speed limit issue is also a real safety concern—slow drivers on the highway do cause collisions, even if a driver than rear-ends them is considered at fault. Betraying expectations of other drivers will increase risk.

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            I’m not sure why the cruise control example is any different. The car is in control of speed in cruise control mode, and the driver has set it to “break the law” mode. I think the driver should be able to set that; after all, driving at the speed limit can be dangerous when other drivers are driving above the speed limit, which is often the case. Similarly, coming to a complete stop at a stop sign when there is no one else at the intersection could confuse other drivers (e.g. a driver behind you), since no human being I have been in a car with has ever come to a full stop at a stop sign in those circumstances outside of a driving test.

            I think the extreme reaction from NHTSA is more a reflection of our times than it is objectively correct. If cruise control hadn’t yet been invented, I’d bet NHTSA would attempt to ban a new driving assistance system that drove above the legal speed limit. Since we’re all used to cruise control being allowed to break the law, that seems natural and correct; but new “violations,” even ones regularly practiced by human drivers like rolling stops, are viewed with techlash suspicion.

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          The idea of opting into UI changes forgets households with multiple drivers, or even guest drivers. It works for single users, sure, but the idea of changing the ui is incompatible with driving norms.

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            The Tesla already knows who’s driving, by identifying which key unlocked it. And you can already customize the seat position and some of the dash controls per driver. (I think that’s pretty common in current cars.)

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              I’m able to borrow my wife’s phone when mine is out of charge. Suddenly the tesla has the wrong information.

              Imagine the headline. Phone out of power? Your life may be on the line.

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                Sometimes my wife clicks her key fob to unlock the car, but I end up driving. Then I notice the seat is too far forward so I tap the “who’s driving” button and then tap my name.

                I’m not sure what we’re arguing about. I was suggesting that, instead of immediately presenting everyone with a changed UI as Teslas currently do, the car could keep the old UI and display a button that lets you switch on the new UI when you’re ready. That seems unequivocally better. If situations like misidentifying the driver cause this not to happen on rare occasions, that’s not worse than where we are now.

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                  instead of immediately presenting everyone with a changed UI as Teslas currently do, the car could keep the old UI and display a button that lets you switch on the new UI when you’re ready.

                  My argument is this is unreasonable. It works great if you have one user per car. The car’s timeline where the user then accepted a change in interface matches the user’s timeline. If you have more users, the car sticker single setting confuses other drivers, and misidentifying the driver leads to presenting the wrong UI; just like today but more complicated to understand.

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                  One can come up with many examples and counter examples for every situation and proposal out there. However, what is the scale? In how many situations that happens? What behaviour out of all listed would prevent the most accidents?

                  Also, for the dead battery: all cars now have chargers.

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                    One can come up with many examples and counter examples for every situation and proposal out there. However, what is the scale? In how many situations that happens? What behaviour out of all listed would prevent the most accidents?

                    Risk assessments are not ran on scale alone, they’re ran on scale and magnitude (weighted against likelihood of appearance and feature usefulness FWIW, but the way various regulatory systems threat that varies). If “the scale” is three events, but one of them is deadly, that is in fact an intolerable risk, the answer to “how many lives justify a better brand presence in the dashboard system” is zero. I’m not even going to start haggling over injuries.

                    IMHO a risk assessment that somehow figured it’s okay to rearrange buttons in someone’s car based on the presence of another hardware device, or after a firmware upgrade, is extraordinarily questionable. I’m not sure how the regulatory process goes in the automotive industry but the fact that this was either not in the risk assessment, or that they figured out it’s okay, is pretty unsettling. You might have trouble getting a medical device that does that kind of stuff on the market, and that one’s supposed to be used by highly-educated, well-trained professionals – the fact that you can sell a car that anyone can buy under these conditions is pretty ridiculous.

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            I think the mere existence of ‘Tesla Bros’ should give everyone else in the world pause. When someone is so fanatical about something that usually indicates something is not right.

            Of course trying to convince people that luxury cars are the solution to pollution is so suspect in itself that I wonder whether anyone is even paying attention anymore.

            On a more on-topic note: It seems to me that if you are a UI designer and you get given an existing UI to work on, you have to make your mark. Otherwise people will say “what do we even need you for?”. Or at least that is how the designers seem to instinctively feel. As a programmer I get the distinct impression that the UI designers want to redesign the UI every few months in a kind of slash and burn, rebuild from scratch way. This results in a lot of unnecessary change, and often change that is more drastic than is really appropriate. I can imagine if you are hired to work on an existing UI and you say ‘the existing UI is fine, I didn’t change anything’ that it might be a bit awkward in the next meeting. On the other hand changing UIs, even for the better, has a huge cost for the entire user base and finding out that it needs no changes should be a welcome relief to everyone involved.

            I think part of the issue is that aesthetics are so hard to define, subjective and constantly changing. I wish this fact would be acknowledged a bit more though. It’s fine to change something if you think it is an improvement, but we shouldn’t pretend that aesthetic improvements are objectively or obviously better.

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              One thing I want to do when I have a lot of free time is a blind test in which I would present participants with a list of ten excerpts from either articles on UX and UI design, or high-ranking posts on /r/stonerphilosophy, and see if they can figure out which one’s from where.

              If you have two buttons, there is a third ‘object’ created, the decision a user must make on which button to tap.

              I’m, like, way more partial to the Pythagorean approach that there are in fact four objects created by two buttons, since a single button already creates the decision of whether to press it or not. Duuuuude.

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                Of course trying to convince people that luxury cars are the solution to pollution is so suspect in itself that I wonder whether anyone is even paying attention anymore.

                haha, I loved that quip. Thanks for making my morning!

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                This could have been quarter the length

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                  Care to expand on this view? Processes behind HCI decisions are difficult to crystallize, so I could easily imagine this having been a longer post.

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                    “I was driving in a Tesla, and needed to defog the windshield. I couldn’t find the button because it is not a top level control like it used to be with the previous software (and on every other vehicle currently). And also because the defrost was hidden behind the temperature reading that I thought was just a temperature display, and not also a button for the climate control in general. This UX sucks for first time drivers, and reading a user manual to do super basic tasks sucks.”

                    I too hate the trend of not indicating what is a button and what isn’t. My current pet peeve is the Android settings menu. Things that used to be clickable now aren’t, and there is no visual way to tell what is and isn’t a setting vs just information.

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                      Good criticism doesn’t just say “this sucks”, but also explains why it sucks, ideally so that most readers come away with a better understanding.

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                        Basic car functions behind a touch screen top level or otherwise is damnable in my book. Touch screens cannot be used easily while driving unless it is in a corner.

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                        Seems like the difference between someone designing for a human driving experience and someone designing under the technologist guise of “car is just a smartphone accessory” information abstraction believing things like full self driving will actually work.

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                        What are you trying to say here?

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                          All of which require knowing the feature is there and being able to speak and knowing what the button is going to do before pressing it.

                          Surely it’s not a replacement, but an augmentation of the existing UI.