Chrysler Town & Country

I inherited this huge van from my father. It is the super-deluxe version with motorized doors, a DVD player with a drop-down monitor for the kids in the back seat, and a DVD-driven map system. All this in a car sold in 2006! 

Some months ago the computer system developed a bug and keep warning me about something wrong, so we took it to the repair people and they fixed it, but in doing so they (quite naturally) reset the computer system. This reverted the system to its default values, one of which I find particularly irritating. 

Whenever the van reaches a speed of 20 mph, the doors automatically lock. This is presumably a family feature to prevent the kids from opening the door and jumping out of the van on the freeway, an act that I should think would have beneficial Darwinian consequences. But Chrysler seems not to care about the gene pool of Homo Sapiens, so they have this feature.

I knew that it could be disabled, but I couldn’t figure out how. So I got on the Internet and searched. I found the manual at a number of sites, but each site seemed to have a paywall or other obstacle. Eventually I found the manual on the Chrysler site and downloaded it. I then discovered the solution to the problem; here is the page presenting the solution:

This has GOT to be the most spectacularly idiotic user interface I have ever discovered. Buttons should be pressed ONCE to trigger their action. Double-clicking is clumsy. Triple-clicking is unacceptable. But FOUR times?!?!?! Using the ignition key?!??!?! What in the world was going on inside the feeble minds of the designers? 

Buttons don’t cost a lot of money; even high quality buttons cost at most a few dollars. Adding an extra button on the console would not have cost much. I understand that cluttering up the console with rarely-used buttons is bad UI design, but their solution is even more cluttersome; it’s merely shifted to another dimension of expression — and an utterly counterintuitive one. 

Chrysler did manage to stumble onto the solution a few years later: add a small LCD screen with a simple rocker switch, such as we now see on many printers:

Chrysler was so pleased with itself that it gave a fancy name to their LCD display: The Electronic Vehicle Information Center {fanfare}. Why they could’t have built such a system into their top-of-the-line van in 2006 baffles me. The 2008 Prius that we own has a big color LCD display allowing all sorts of useful interaction between driver and computer. 

Chrysler violated one of the cardinal rules of good UI design: if you can’t make a feature readily accessible to the user, then don’t include it!

Oh, and one last thing: the procedure they give doesn’t work on my van. Maybe I should try FIVE on-off steps. Six? Maybe I must do each one at least 3 second apart — or less than 0.5 seconds apart. Who knows?