I have to admit that the car is my least favorite way of transportation, but because of luxury and status, I own one of these new and modern electric cars. You can argue about the sense of electric cars, but it’s not the type of engine (electric motor) that is debatable, but rather the energy storage1. But that’s a different story.

Every time I get into my four-wheeled love-hate relationship to somehow bridge the last mile to the train2, I get annoyed by the misguided human-machine interaction. The big manufacturer from Wolfsburg can certainly build good cars, comfortable and safe, but they can’t do software3, and UX (user experience) even less so. It takes five actions in three menus to go from the car navigation to setting the temperature. All for the sake of a tidy and button-free driver’s seat4.

Recently, I got to sit in a historic KT4D train. These vehicles are still active in Magdeburg and were originally used in Berlin5. Compared to my electric car, the driver’s place in the train is a real culture shock. Of course, due to the time of development, the train doesn’t have digital controls. When you look at modern trains, you can see the trend: moving away from overloaded workplaces to tidy multi-displays with touch functions6.

But it’s worth looking back, especially at my favorite control, the Knebelschalter. One switch for everything: you can press it, turn it, and pull it, and use it without looking, like those funny „Bop It“ toys. Turn left for stage one – door open, turn right – door closed; two steps to the right – only the first door opens. I love this kind of control, the tactile feedback you get when you use it. It helps me trust the vehicle and understand how it works7. Can we have that again, please?

  1. PDF Link / Frauenhofer ISI / Batterien für Elektroautos: Faktencheck und Handlungsbedarf ↩︎
  3. Link / swr / Wenn die Elektronik spinnt: Seat, Skoda, Audi, VW ↩︎
  4. Link / topgear / Here’s how in-car screens have grown through history ↩︎
  5. Link / mvbnet / Ein Berliner wird Magdeburger: Umbau der Straßenbahnen vom Typ KT4D begonnen ↩︎
  6. Link / DLR Verkehr / Wie verändern sich Berufsbilder im automatisierten Bahnverkehr? ↩︎
  7. PDF Link / Trust in autonomous vehicles: insights from a Swedish suburb ↩︎