K.I.S.S. - BMW's ican'tDrive
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  1. #1
    Sense Pug307's Avatar
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    Default K.I.S.S. - BMW's ican'tDrive

    Looks like BMW's iDrive system is proving to be so complex that the politicians are starting to complain about it.

    To be honest, I fail to see the value in having one 'super dial' that does everything, if it means you have to navigate via a flotilla of menus just to actuate something you'd normally press one switch.

    The system can't be intuitive if you need a two hour lesson to learn it.

    I think this MP's comments are quite true.

    "This is applying computer technology to cars. There's only one problem: cars are a moving object," Mr Gibson said.
    "You need eye and hand co-ordination to control properly and your eyes are off the road for longer than they would be in a normal car.
    To put it bluntly, this iDrive system just seems like some wank conjured up by some geek hidden in some lab somewhere in München

    From Fairfax's Drive.com.au

    The iDrive infuriation factor goes off the dial
    By Joshua Dowling
    The Sydney Morning Herald
    Friday November 21 2003


    The complex computer system controlling basic functions in BMW's $200,000 flagship limousine was roundly criticised when it was released two years ago. The latest incarnation of the technology -- in the otherwise enviable 5 Series -- is no better, says Joshua Dowling.


    As radio's agony aunt of science, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki is the voice of reason. But behind the wheel of the latest BMW, trying to change radio stations, he is the voice of frustration.

    "It's diabolical," he says after 10 minutes trying in vain to set a radio frequency using the BMW's complex and controversial iDrive system -- a device intended to make life easier by controlling basic functions such as the radio and air-conditioning through one dial in the centre console.

    "Counter-intuitive would be the kindest thing you could say about it, but," he repeats, "diabolical is the most accurate."

    After the iDrive system was universally criticised in BMW's flagship two years ago (it prompted such headlines as "I drive, no, you drive while I figure out the controls"), the German maker made assurances that it would be greatly improved in future models.



    After a week in the latest model, the $105,000 5 Series mid-size sedan, we beg to differ.



    To Drive's reckoning, it still has the same flaws, but fewer options. Instead of getting lost in eight zones in the 7 Series, you can get lost in four zones in the 5 Series.

    The last time Drive sampled iDrive we took the car to 30 people aged from 16 to 60 to see if they could master it. Only two had the patience; each took more than 5 minutes to simply turn on the radio and find a station. BMW spends up to two hours tutoring customers about iDrive before the car leaves the showroom.

    Drive's view was -- and still is -- why? BMW added seven unnecessary steps to something which could be done with the press of one button in a $14,990 Hyundai.

    So, when the new 5 Series arrived in Drive's garage, we went straight to Dr Karl (pictured below), the most vocal of our respondents in the 7 Series test, the Julius Sumner Miller Fellow at the University of Sydney and commentator on scientific matters on the ABC's 702 AM and Triple J FM.

    After his second attempt at mastering BMW's iDrive system, he is still scathing.

    "The system seems to have been designed by people who had an agenda that had nothing to do with driving and who seem to have never tuned a radio in their lives," he said. "They've come up with a weird computer geek idea of how you should do it.

    "This has been done by possibly the same sort of people who, when designing computers, made sure we had to go to a button marked 'start' before you could shut it down.

    "It's totally irrational and you'll stumble across the menus only by accident and you'll only do that when you get frustrated enough to start banging the iDrive knob in all different directions. And then, when you've accidentally stumbled across the menu that you want, you have to try to remember how the heck you got there.

    "I can see people ringing up the BMW dealer asking how they can change the radio station. In a car like this, that is ridiculous when you really think about it."

    He disagreed with BMW's contention that the new 5 Series iDrive is simpler: "I don't think I'd call it simpler. In fact, it's not any better at all. This goes back to the complexity of the very first computers. I reckon they could still have iDrive if only BMW had someone with a background in ergonomics and made it easier."

    Dr Karl, also the face of the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority's anti-fatigue campaign, was concerned the iDrive could distract drivers and questioned its potential impact on road safety.

    "Obviously, you should set the radio when you're stopped but the reality is people are going to try to do this while driving," he said.

    "I don't think it's a good idea to have things in cars that are going to tempt drivers into taking their eyes off the road.

    "The radio plays a large part in driving and therefore I believe it deserves its own controls. It's part of your travelling companion. It's not quite as important as the gearbox and steering wheel but it's up there.

    "BMW has basically tried to make life easier but in effect made it much more difficult."

    Would iDrive put him off buying a car with such a system?

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    "It wouldn't prevent me because I would just persevere ... and work out a few quick fixes, having a vast feeling of inadequacy and knowing that there are a whole lot of functions that I couldn't do.

    "I'd probably be in love with the engineering integrity of the car, but I'm sure there would be people who are not as masochistic as myself who'd just say 'bugger it, I'm not going to touch it, it's too hard'."
    So, what do you think?

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    The second part of the article.

    Car 'too smart' as drivers defeated by dial



    By Joshua Dowling, Motoring Editor
    The Sydney Morning Herald

    The head of the NSW Staysafe Committee has called on federal authorities to review the approval process for new cars following the arrival of a BMW which is "too smart for mere mortals".

    The new BMW 5 Series sedan signals the increasing dependence on computers in cars, prompting concerns about driver distraction.

    "New technology has overtaken the regulations," said Labor MP Paul Gibson, who inspected the car after a demonstration by the Herald.

    At the heart of the matter is a central knob which controls everything from the radio to the air-conditioning.

    Usually simple functions require up to seven twists, turns or clicks of the computer-mouse-like dial and require the driver to follow the moves on a TV screen.

    "This is applying computer technology to cars. There's only one problem: cars are a moving object," Mr Gibson said.

    "You need eye and hand co-ordination to control properly and your eyes are off the road for longer than they would be in a normal car.

    "Not everyone has the same mental capacity to pick up something like this. It's too smart for mere mortals."

    After trying in vain to set a radio station on the complex iDrive system -- while the car was parked -- Mr Gibson said: "I couldn't imagine doing this while driving. I think it's a terrible distraction. If [car makers] are going to produce this sort of technology with this sort of [operating system] it should be easier."

    Rival German car maker Audi uses similar technology on its new luxury sedan but it is simpler to operate. BMW gives customers a demonstration of up to two hours before leaving the showroom.

    "Anything that takes two hours to learn is not user-friendly and is clearly beyond the realm of normal," Mr Gibson said. "The alarm bells should have been ringing [for federal authorities] as soon as it became known that it required special knowledge."

    All new vehicles must pass an inspection by the Federal Office of Road Safety to see that it complies with Australian Design Rules.

    BMW Australia spokesman John Kananghinis said the new car passed its Single Uniform Type Inspection (SUTI) with no complaints and there were no official objections to the technology in other countries.



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    1000+ Posts mr bern's Avatar
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    Seems like there's lots of scope for even more hardware and a LOT more software development to go into voice recognition and response -- it's the only way you'll ever make tuning your radio (if that's the sole criterion here) simpler and safer than turning one knob, while letting the driver continue to focus on driving. Roll on the mobile HAL 9000!

    Top execs -- the candidate market -- would do just about anything to stick it up their mates, especially including being seen to be In Charge Of a big beemer, but I doubt whether many would have the perseverance or patience (or smarts, frankly) to master what seems to be needed to drive a 7 or 5. How many IT support people could put their hand on their heart and say that their MD or CEO wants systems whose complexity will cause his peers to respect him for his technical prowess? When it's his -- or her -- or more accurately, the shareholders' -- dollar on the line, what's wanted is something simple, above all effective, and maybe elegant, but certainly not difficult to use.

    Given how much it must have cost them to get to the present situation, the best thing BMW could do now is to back away from iDrive as fast and as far as they can, and let somebody else with the insight to match the budget do the pioneering.

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    Justin... How about this for a challenge.... getting a trial of an iDrive system in a new BMW (or used, doubt many floating around tho)...

    Seriously though, many upper spec cars have an absurd amount of buttons and switches. BMW were right to try and find a solution, but it seems they failed spectacularly.
    Tim

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    Fellow Frogger! lucin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mr bern
    Seems like there's lots of scope for even more hardware and a LOT more software development to go into voice recognition and response -- it's the only way you'll ever make tuning your radio (if that's the sole criterion here) simpler and safer than turning one knob, while letting the driver continue to focus on driving. Roll on the mobile HAL 9000!

    .
    ha, what'll happen when hal 9000 finds out you're looking to sell the car!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sergetov
    Seriously though, many upper spec cars have an absurd amount of buttons and switches. BMW were right to try and find a solution, but it seems they failed spectacularly.
    Like their recent styling initiatives?

  7. #7
    nJm
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    Styling is down to personal opinion so we'll leave that one there (otherwise that's all we'll end up talking about!).


    I did find the iDrive a little confusing at first, but I quickly got used to it (the car was a 745i). You rotate the knob to find the option you want on the screen and press it to activate it. Once you're used to what you need to do it isn't that bad. I actually found using the stereo/tv/sat nav in the M3 harder.

    At least BMW have put the screen up at eye level, and all your hand needs to worry about is one large knob that is easy to find. In older cars like the 505 etc you have to peer down at the small buttons hidden behind the gearstick if you're in 1st/3rd/5th. In a modern car with the small radio display on the top of the dash (eg Astra, 307 etc) you still have to find what are relatively small buttons and press it. It took me a while to get used to what I think are not very intuitive audio stalks on the 307 and so forth.

    I am glad BMW have simplified the iDrive. I didn't think it was too bad. I personally would like to have a menu based system like that rather than hundreds of buttons (ala Mercedes S-Class). The Audi version of iDrive is meant to be excellent, so maybe we should all go drive an A8....
    Nick
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    Quote Originally Posted by mr bern
    Given how much it must have cost them to get to the present situation, the best thing BMW could do now is to back away from iDrive as fast and as far as they can, and let somebody else with the insight to match the budget do the pioneering.
    I think you're right there mr distorted picture bern. I looked at the menu structure of the iDrive system - it seems ridiculously deep (as in, up to 7 "levels" deep in the options I think it was). They need to get someone proficient at software design to do it right. The reason the Apple iPod is so far ahead of its competitiors is because of an extremely simple (and very shallow) menu that anyone can find all the options. If they got someone like the designer of the iPod (Jonathon Ives - don't know if he did the Software design or just industrial design) they might come up with a successful iDrive system.

    Having said all that, I have so much difficulty using the iPod whilst driving I now don't - I put it on a playlist and hit play before I head off. Perhaps jog-wheel systems just aren't suited to motoring.

    Derek.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nJm
    I am glad BMW have simplified the iDrive. I didn't think it was too bad.
    Nick,
    Remember you're not a 60 year old wealthy executive Although you may just be one day! When the sort of people who can afford to and do own these cars have difficult remembering a sequence for using an EFTPOS machine, I don't hold much hope in them remembering a menu even 4 options deep each with multiple branches.

    The generational gap between us young "button pressers" and others is amazingly noticeable when you work with people older than yourself.

    Derek.

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    rek
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeKa
    IIf they got someone like the designer of the iPod (Jonathon Ives - don't know if he did the Software design or just industrial design) they might come up with a successful iDrive system.
    Useless Fact #324987: the firmware/OS underlying the iPod was developed by someone else and licenced to Apple (can't remember the name of the company.)

    Does anyone know how other luxo manufacturer's integrated systems work? I've heard the one in the new Audi A8 is similar in interface but better than BMW, and from personal experience the Mercedes COMAND system is pretty good.
    Peter
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    XTC
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    You don't need to learn the I-Drive system .. that's the chauffers job hahahahahaha

    - XTC206 -

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    1000+ Posts Warwick's Avatar
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    Guys I have spent a bit of time in 7 series lately. I partly agree with criticism, but mostly disagree.
    A few salient points. Mercedes, are coming out with a similar system soon, and the A8 or whatever its called has a similarly conceived, though simpler and consequently messier system now.
    The problem is having so many systems in a car. Do you present 20 different switches or do you organise it with a controller. How do you tell the car through switches(and how many switches would it need) to keep the ventilation going for a preset period when you lock the car and go into the shop for 5 minutes.
    Yes the menu depth may make things too messy, but most functions you can operate in a simple way
    If you want to change radio stations in a 7, this is what you do. Push the voice recognition button on the wheel(without needing to look), and say "100.3". Bing it changes stations. If you want to change the navigation destination, press the button and say "navigation menu..... options... and go for whatever you want. The voice recognition software doesnt have a learning capability, however, (that I know of) so if you have a strong accent you may be in trouble, like one Vietnamese client I had.
    The controller for the i-drive is more for more particular and deeper functions; stuff you need to tell computers to do. But it is easy to enjoy the car without all that stuff. I think they could have done a better job designing the software(menu presentation) though.
    The 2004 i-drive has revisions to it(in the 7 series).

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    Quote Originally Posted by rek
    Useless Fact #324987: the firmware/OS underlying the iPod was developed by someone else and licenced to Apple (can't remember the name of the company.)
    You're right - just looked at the "Legal" menu - it was done by PortalPlayer.

    Thanks for your insight Warwick2 Glad it's not all bad!
    Derek.

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    1000+ Posts Europa's Avatar
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    I haven't tried iDrive at all, but there is one thing to be said about buttons..

    Once you have memorised where they are and what they do, it is always quicker than using a menu system.

    It's a bit like using DOS and using Windows. ie, you can copy a file in Windows (by clicking Start, Programs, Explorer, navigating to the file, right-click (and hold), drag the file to the destination, let go of the right mouse button and select "Copy" from the context sensitive menu) or you can copy a file in DOS (by typing copy c:\temp\example.doc a:)

    The difference is, with Windows you can work it out, with DOS you have to know what you are doing. BUT - once you know what you are doing, you can achieve the desired result in a fraction of the time.

    Now look at the Renault R25 V6. At night it looks like a 747 cockpit, with illuminated buttons all around the driver. There are THREE ways to adjust the radio volume (Steering wheel control, Volume control on main unit, Volume control on dashboard under display). It seems ludicrous until you become familiar with the car, and then you instantly know where to go for the function you need (volume control example is crazy though, no need for three different controls)

    I would have thought an ATM style of interface might be easier to understand - as you press on the function you require (buttons around the edge of the screen) or even a touch screen technology. But then again, I'm sure BMW have done research on this sort of thing which led them to the iDrive idea. It does seem odd to have a 2 hour training course requirement though, especially for mundane things such as changing radio stations...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Europa
    Now look at the Renault R25 V6. At night it looks like a 747 cockpit, with illuminated buttons all around the driver.
    That comment reminded me of this picture.


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    At least with the saab each button does a single predefined, never-changing, consistant thing......

    Which can't be said about the I-Drive hoobajoob

    I think there's a happy medium.....
    If there's enough room to ergonomically place them all, give me buttons for everything ......

    Rather than the BMW thang, where they've managed to consolidate so many functions and buttons.....and still managed to end up with a fussy styled dash, that reportedly lacks space and "amenity".....which is probably in keeping with the exterior styling i guess

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    1000+ Posts Europa's Avatar
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    hehe even the steering wheel buttons - nice ;-)

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    I wonder what it would cost to replace or repair....if the iDrive dial was ever damaged in some way......could possibly be looking at TOTAL loss of control (re various functions and menus).....whatever the case...id rather replace a single switch per function rather than having to pay (i m sure) a small fortune for a dial that controls so many other features.....maybe bmw is more concerned about their future production costs than incabin ergonomics.....by the way...maybe they should get somebody from saab to do their interiors.....they ve always been applauded for their ergonomics if anything....


    cheers
    dino

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    1000+ Posts Europa's Avatar
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    A bit like a Fiat that a mate of mines Dad had - it had a single globe with fibre optics for all the dashboard lighting - then the globe blew

  20. #20
    XTC
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pug307
    That comment reminded me of this picture.
    Saab 9-3, you are cleared for takeoff
    I hope there is a dimmer switch for all that !!!!

    - XTC206 -

    PS: reminds me of my lounge room at night (from the hi-fi) fortunately you can either turn off or dim most displays
    You're not fooling everyone, or did you forget? .......




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