Talking Car: Good for buyers, bad for users...

Mark Hurst wrote recently on his Good Experience blog about the brief failed experiment that was the talking car. The car would verbalize status warnings like "the door is ajar" and "don't forget your keys." My grandfather actually had one of these cars for a while, and I thought his hatred of it was unique to him; "the door is ajar" was usually followed by his "go to hell!" But it turns out from Mark's account that this was a pretty common reaction. People who oohed and ahhed at the feature in the showroom came to despise it as an annoyance after a couple of weeks of ownership. It's a good case of design-for-sales, not design-for-use - and a "feature" that turned out to be a liability.

2 comments:

Jesse M said...

Question: if this is unacceptable in cars, why is it okay in public transportation? It happens many times per trip on the NYC subway, and people don't seem enraged by it... there aren't major online initiatives to get the automated voice turned off, even though it mostly only repeats trivialities, like "Stand Clear of Closing Doors" and "we are delayed because of train traffic ahead. Please be patient." What psychological quirk does this demonstrate about users? That a "voice" is acceptable in a subway, because in public transportation it's acceptable to be impersonal, whereas it's unacceptable in a car because it seems patronizing?

Dave Gustafson said...

Wow, that's a REALLY good question! You're totally right, public transportation voice announcements don't pack the same annoyance punch... I wonder if it's because you're just a passenger on a system, rather than the owner/driver of the vehicle. You accept what you can't change about the system, and that it's in control and needs to give you messages, which is its right. But if you own and drive a CAR, you feel like YOU are in charge - you should be the one sending out messages, not it! Just a thought...