go ahead, mac my day

a Macintosh girl in a Microsoft world

the usability of rental cars

the usability of rental cars

  • Comments 14

I've been quite the road warrior for the past few months. The biggest question in my travels is my rental car. I never seem to get the same type of rental car twice in a row. I've run the gamut from a Ford Mustang convertible (and I hated every second of driving that car, which is unfortunate, since I drove it from Portland to Seattle) to a Chevy Trailblazer (which I also hated, because it felt like I was driving a schoolbus).

Aside from complaints about specific vehicles, I've learned a bit about what I want out of my rental car:

  • Mirrors that are easy to adjust. You'd think that this would be a no-brainer, right? But I can't tell you how many times I've been entirely unable to figure out where the control for the side mirrors is, and then how to work it.
  • Headlights that come on or flash when I click the 'unlock door' button. If I'm driving a four-door beige sedan, I need some kind of indicator from the car so that I know which one is mine. (An alternative, which isn't great but I'll accept it, is that it has a quick horn-honk when I hit the 'lock door' button after the doors are already locked.)
  • A radio that has an easy-to-find 'seek' button. If I have a rental car, I don't know the local radio stations, so I have to dig around until I find the ones that I want. I'm going to do this while I'm driving, I'm not going to be doing this while I'm sitting in the garage. It should be on the left side of the radio, and it should be easy to find by touch after I know its general location.
  • A radio that lets me program its pre-set buttons easily. I always seem to get a rental car after someone with diametrically opposite tastes has had it, so I have to get rid of their bad country or right-wing talk radio stations as soon as humanly possible so that I don't accidentally damage my psyche.

These have turned out to be the things that are really important to me when I drive a rental car, and I realised that they're all usability issues. It's just me and my luggage when I travel, so I don't care about making sure I get a big enough car. Assuming that the car has four wheels and air conditioning, I really don't care about the particular car. It's been kinda nifty to drive cars, it's kinda like an extended test drive for cars that I'd never consider buying.

Comments
  • Usually, you can request a specific model when you rent a car.  If they have one available, most agencies, esp. Avis, will try to give you that model.
  • Since this is business travel, I'm using an internal tool to book everything.  I don't get that level of granularity on my car rental.  I only get to specify that I want a rental car, I don't get to specify anything specific about it.  I'm now in the habit of asking what car they're giving me when they hand me the keys, and have asked to get something smaller a couple of times. I don't need another Trailblazer when it's just me, a laptop, and an overnight bag!
  • Yep, and these days, gotta check if said car is iPod compatible...
  • Yup, I get to specify my car with Hertz, and I usually ask for and get a Mazda 6, which meets Nadyne's usability requirements:

    - side control for mirrors
    - flashing lights when you hit the unlock
    - seek button
    - programmable

    Though once I ended up with a Miata that ALSO had Sirius...mmm, Sirius.

    Most of the iPod compatible cars right now cost extra $$$- like the Beemers.
  • Yup, I get to specify my car with Hertz, and I usually ask for and get a Mazda 6, which meets Nadyne's usability requirements:

    - side control for mirrors
    - flashing lights when you hit the unlock
    - seek button
    - programmable

    Though once I ended up with a Miata that ALSO had Sirius...mmm, Sirius.

    Most of the iPod compatible cars right now cost extra $$$- like the Beemers.
  • You gonna charge for Office 12 Universal Binary Beta?

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/07/31/office_betas_cost/
  • It's too early to discuss any potential beta for Magnesium. :)
  • Hmmmmm, Magnesium, white and glows when set on fire, soft - certainly can't make a MacBook out of it, unless it's an alloy, white alloy MacBook Pro would be cool.....
  • Huh. Well, Office 12 for Windows has been in beta since November 2005.

    http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2005/nov05/11-16Office12Beta1PR.mspx

    I'm not going to speculate as to what they are doing, and either you the people who are running the show or you don't... but I WILL say that getting users who can offer useful beta feedback in as early as possible has always been a positive experience for me and my teams doing software, and I'd encourage the MacBU to make the Magnesium betas as open as people like Jensen Harris have made the Windows Office betas- in terms of explaining the software development process and making it a conversation with users, instead of of limiting feedback to people who write Very Large Checks or are willing to live under the Cone of NDA Silence.
  • I will cast my Cone of NDA Silence spell, so I pick up the d20 and roll an 18.  I am successful, so my spell results in a gnome lawyer shadowing you for (rolls a d8) 6 turns.  

    What's that you say?  Software development shouldn't be treated like one big game of D&D?  ... oh.  Now you tell me.
  • Actually, I was thinking of "Get Smart!" when I used the term "Cone of Silence":

    http://www.tvacres.com/commun_booths_cone.htm

    Like  I said, I know there's reasons for not making everything public, and having things come in due time- but I do think your counterparts in Windows have done some good things by opening their kilt a bit, so to speak, and I'd hope you'd do the same.
  • Thought it was "drone of Silence" he-he ;) Good job no mind reading Aliens leaking MS secrets lol.....
  • As the kilt lifts, this blog will be the second place you hear about it. :)
  • My word is my bond, lemme beta test it on me MacBook Pro Rev 2  when get my gruppy hands on it ;P
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