A few weeks ago I wrote a post titled Pushbutton Cars in which I lamented my experience with a rental car whose ignition was activated by a pushbutton, rather than a key in the ignition switch. I still don’t understand all the reasons for using the pushbutton, but I suppose it met some marketing requirement or design specification. Since I don’t see pushbuttons in many cars, it appears the idea does not have widespread customer appeal. Why not? It may well be a feature waiting for a market.
There are, of course, many new car features that are more practical and therefore destined to have wider appeal. As an example, on a more recent business trip I had another rental car surprise: remote start. Along with locking and unlocking doors with buttons on my key fob, I could also start the car from several tens-of-feet away. Since my local climate changes through all four season in a 12 month calendar year, I think remote start is a particularly nice feature for cold winter mornings – when my wife’s car gets to rest in the garage, and mine sits out in the cold, snow, and ice. If my own car had the remote start feature, on frigid mornings I could start my car from the warm comfort of my home. A feature with a very tangible benefit.
In my limited time with the rental, I discovered a couple of interesting features about the remote start system. First, remotely starting the car automatically locks all car doors. At first this annoyed me since I typically unlocked the doors as I approached the car, and then started it. But after thinking the locked doors requirement through a bit, I think I understand the reason: it’s a security feature. Not a good idea to leave you car running, unattended and unlocked, while you’re inside your home getting ready to leave. And there is a simple workaround to my dilemma – start the car first, then unlock the doors.
The second feature is also aimed at security, and backs-up the auto door lock function. Even though the car started remotely, it would not go into gear until I put the key in the ignition and turned it to the on position, just as if I used the key to start the car. So drivers can’t start their car from the comfort of their home, only to leave their house and drive off while forgetting the car keys on the kitchen table.
All-in-all, I think the remote start feature on my rental car was well thought out. Took some thinking to finalize the design specifications, and then a bit of design work, and no doubt some trial and error, to get everything working right. Not a super complex system, but one with practical application.
The remote start system on my rental car no doubt resulted from the collaboration between multiple design teams. Collaboration, whether among design teams in a company, or between companies at a technical event, helps spread the seeds of good design ideas and solutions. Remember that our Automotive IESF event, a perfect opportunity to collaborate with industry peers, is coming up fast on the calendar – June 2 in Detroit, Michigan. See my Automotive IESF 2011 post for more details.