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I’m Very Glad Cars Don’t Have Different Control Layouts

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Breaking news: I spend a fair amount of my free time playing video games. Also, since the U.S. is only just starting to emerge from the deadly funk that COVID-19 introduced, I’ve had far too much time to think. As a result, I started wondering what would happen if different car brands had different layouts like game controllers.

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Valuable context

If you’re not someone who plays many — or any — video games, I’ll explain what I’m talking about. There are three platforms that the majority of people use to play: PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo. Each brand has its own proprietary controller that features a four-way directional pad, two joysticks, and four face buttons. The problem is, all of them are different.

PlayStation’s face buttons sport shapes like triangles, circles, and squares. Xbox opts for letters. Nintendo uses the exact same letters, but assigns them to different spots. Sometimes, the joysticks are parallel to one another, sometimes they’re offset. This can make switching consoles tremendously confusing.

Imagining a converse car control layout

With that understanding, close your eyes and consider how different the world would be if automakers didn’t adhere to a standardized layout.

Say you’re test-driving a 2021 Buick Enclave. Its steering wheel is right where you want it, the glove compartment is where you’re used to it being, and the shift knob is within easy reach. But maybe you’re not 100 percent ready to commit to an SUV, so you check out a Ram 1500. This time, though, the steering wheel is on the ceiling and the latch to open the glove compartment is under your butt.

Unsatisfied with the ergonomic experience afforded by this fictional pickup, you jump into a GMC Sierra. Mercifully, the glove compartment isn’t under your rumpus, and both the steering wheel and shift knob seem to be where they belong. Unfortunately, they switched the positioning of the gas and brake pedals. Wouldn’t that throw you for a loop?

Clearly, this is all useless speculation, and I assure you that all of the important mechanisms in each of the three vehicles mentioned above are in the right spots. But, I would also encourage you to take a moment to appreciate the fact that vehicles are held to stringent standards so some mad scientist doesn’t force you to steer your car using a Wii Remote.

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