Thursday, July 15, 2010

Stop Over Protecting Me

I'm tired of products that over-protect me and, because of that, they make me significantly less productive than I could otherwise be. It's as if I'm being managed like a child and am not trusted to make my own safe decisions. Here are some examples:

Left Turn Stoplight Arrows Waste Time and Gas

You drive up to an intersection where you need to turn left.  You get into the left turn lane and you encounter a left turn arrow that is red and says that you can only turn left on a green arrow.  You wait for the light to change.  There is no oncoming traffic and thus it would be safe to turn left, but you aren't allowed to go because you have a red arrow.

Instead, you have to just sit there and wait for the entire rest of the stoplight cycle.  Finally, the light turns red your direction, the traffic the other direction gets their left turn arrow and they go.  Then, the straight through traffic the other direction crosses in front of you.  Then, finally you get your green arrow and you can turn left.

What's wrong with this picture?  I wasted several minutes of time.  I wasted some amount of gasoline while my car was just idling.  I made the other cars waiting for their green light wait longer than they needed to.  In the worst case, you get someone in front of you in the left turn lane that isn't paying attention to the green arrow and they don't keep up so the sensors for the green arrow think nobody is there and they turn yellow, then red before you even get a chance to go through the light and you have to wait an entire additional cycle (this happened to me today) wasting even more time and gas.

I have nothing against left turn arrows in general.  On a very busy intersection that never gets a decent gap in oncoming traffic left turn arrows are needed and are very useful.  But, I do object to left turn arrows that don't allow you to proceed with your left turn when the general light is green and there is no oncoming traffic.  In these cases, they give you a left turn green arrow, but not a red or yellow arrow.  At times other than the green arrow, you must yield safely to oncoming traffic as if there was no arrow at all.  In my opinion, this is the best of both worlds.  If traffic is busy, you can wait for the green arrow.  If traffic is not busy, you can proceed during the normal green light cycle when safe and everybody waits less and burns less gas waiting.

The only reason I can figure that the lights are configured with red arrows is that they don't trust you to turn left safely on your own.  Even though most traffic signals don't even have left turn arrows (thus they are trusting you to make those decisions on most traffic signals), some signals are configured not to trust you to make a left turn decision on your own.  This lack of trust costs time and gas and is unnecessary in most intersections.  You may note that this seems to be a regional issue.  Some regions have a lot of left turn arrows that only allow you to proceed on a green arrow.  Other regions have a lot of left turn arrows that let you turn left any time the through light is green and it's safe to make a left turn.  Unfortunately for me, the part of California I live in has a lot of the time waster, gas waster red arrows.

Car Navigation System that Won't Let Me Use It While Driving

I own a 2008 Lexus sedan.  One of the nice options it came with was a built-in navigation system.  My previous car has also had a navigation system so I was well used to the benefits.  A mere hour or so after taking my new car off the car lot, I discover that the new navigation system will not let me set a destination while I'm driving.   Woahhh, how unproductive is that?  If I want to use my nav system, I have to either program it before I start driving or I have to find a place to pull over so I can set it or occasionally you can race to try to get it programmed in the duration of a red light.  In any case, once you pull out of the driveway, you can no longer set your navigation system.  To make matters worse,

At first, I figured that this was just some new law that the car manufacturers all had to adhere to.  Nope, as it turns out, some cars let you program the nav system while driving and some do not.  My particular car maker has decided that I can't be trusted to safely enter a destination in the nav system while other car makers still allow that.  Furthermore, even a passenger isn't allowed to operate the nav system which is absolutely silly.  And, of course, if you own an add-on Garmin nav system or some other similar brand, those can all be used while in motion too.

In full disclosure, my nav system does allow me to use voice commands to set a destination while driving.  I read about how to do it in the manual and I tried to use it.  It is simply a horrible experience.  It is quicker to pull over and use the on screen keyboard to enter your destination.  Furthermore, it doesn't support important features like setting an intersection as the destination when you don't have a precise street address.  As best I can tell, voice commands for the nav system is one of those absolutely useless features that someone spent a lot of engineering dollars on.

Car makers and Lexus in particular - stop protecting me from myself.   I have safely used my previous nav system while driving for many years and believe that I can continue to do so.  FYI Lexus, the next time my wife shops for a car (and probably me too), one of her requirements is that the nav system can be used while driving.  I guess she won't be buying a Lexus.  Her brother's new Acura MDX does allow the nav system to be used while driving.

Bluetooth Car System That Won't Let Me Dial a Number While Driving

While we're on the subject of my 2008 Lexus, one of my favorite features in the car is the built-in bluetooth hands-free integration so I can answer calls without using my hands (and do so legally now that California has new laws about cell phones and driving).  And, if the number I'm trying to call has been previously entered into the address book in the car (which is different than the address book in my phone), then I can dial outgoing calls while driving by just selecting the desired person to call.

But, if I need to dial a number that isn't in the address book in the car (which happens regularly), my car won't let me do it through the car system without making me pull over to initiate the call.  What's so silly about this is that I can initiate a call from my phone itself (either by selecting an address book entry on the phone or by dialing the number on the phone) and then the bluetooth system handles the entire rest of the call.  And it would, in fact, be safer for me to initiate the call on the touchscreen in the car than by holding my phone since the touchscreen in the car is a way less complicated interaction than managing my touchscreen phone while driving.  So, they've blocked the most straightforward way to dial a call and pushed you in the direction of the less safe way.  This is just dumb.  If we're allowed to initiate calls while driving by law, we should be able to use the most straightforward way of doing so.

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