Infiniti FX – Now (Quite Possibly) With Eject Button

The new Infiniti FX50 comes with a bunch of cool features and a few surprises.  Among the surprises are a series of buttons and switches that offer such intuitively labeled features such as AFS, DCA, FCW, IBA, LDW, and VDC.  These toggles appear near the ignition panel – so at least drivers can intuit they have something to do with the operation of the car, as opposed to perhaps controlling the vertical hold on the headrest video, or selecting alternate tunes for an optional courtesy horn. 

Unfortunately these nifty black rectangles provide something a little more important – and something that (if ignored or misunderstood) could cause serious injury or death.  You see, these buttons offer high-tech safety features.  Here’s the “decoder ring” for the alphabet soup of features – suitable for printing out and keeping in your 2009 Infiniti FX50 to remind you of the features, or to hand to those annoying passengers that ask,”Dude, what are those buttons for?”:

AFS = Adaptive Front Lighting System – points the lights where you need them when turning.  We’re not sure what happened to the “L” in the acronym, either.
DCA = Distance Control Assist – applies the brake to keep you from rear ending (or perhaps tailgating) the car in front of you.
FCW = Forward Collision Warning – long a tool for truckers, this alerts the driver sudden changes in traffic speed ahead.
IBA = Intelligent Brake Assist – applies brakes automatically (and ahead of impact) when objects are detected in the path of the vehicle so that crashes are potentially less violent.
LDW = Lane Departure Warning – another trucker tool… this one yells at you when your vehicle starts to drift between lanes – and apparently also helps to drag your vehicle back into your lane.
VDC = Vehicle Dynamic Control – a glorified traction control system that somehow intuits what you’re trying to do with the car and helps you keep all four wheels working towards your goal – especially when engaging in evasive maneuvers. 

Here’s why these acronyms don’t work… they don’t tell a driver (especially a new buyer or someone borrowing the car) what the buttons are for – and yet they’re located in a spot that seems to indicate you’d better darn well be familiar with them.  Additionally, the performance of the car in emergency situations will vary greatly depending on which features are activated. 

Do we really think that we’ll be able to run through the acronyms, decode them, and adjust our driving profiles accordingly as potential doom approaches?   Which of the following two examples is more likely?

“…okay, so the FCW alarm is ringing, which means that there’s something ahead of me.  VDC and AFS are off, but IBA and DCA are on, so I probably can’t see whatever it is that I’m about to hit, but at least the brakes will be applied so my head won’t fly off when I hit the unseen thing out there.  Next time I’ll be sure to use AFS.”

“What in the hell is an FCW alarm?  Oh… CRAP.”

Perhaps this is an argument for better ingredient naming.  And better design.  In cases where the actual features or ingredients greatly affect the user’s safety the focus should be on descriptiveness, not on abbreviation.  Okay, so the buttons aren’t big… but a change from vertical to horizontal would provide a better format for the way we read anyhow.  Check the picture below – there’s all sorts of space on these buttons above and below the text.  Why force an awkward naming construct to address a problem that should’ve been solved with better design?


When it comes to instantly recalled safety lessons we’ve seen time and again that words work better than acronyms…  It isn’t SDaR, it’s Stop, Drop, and Roll.  It isn’t RTRG, it’s Reach, Throw, Row, Go.  (The former is “what to do when you’re on fire” while the latter reminds you in what order you should attempt to rescue someone who has fallen into a body of water.

Airbags aren’t ABs, seat belts aren’t SBs, Back-up Cameras aren’t BUCs… Perhaps there’s a reason for it…

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