I recently had my Volkswagen Golf Alltrack at the dealership for routine maintenance. As a courtesy, this dealership will give you a loaner car if you pre-request it. This time they gave me a new Atlas, their largest SUV model.
This was just before the gas crunch hit, but fuel was still on their minds. "We're now charging for the fuel you use with the loaner car," the VW service guy told me, as he handed over the keys. "Last year we lost $300,000 in fuel costs with loaner cars."
That figure sounded high to me, and I assumed he meant VW dealerships nationwide. He then explained that they'd use the odometer and GPS tracker in the car to calculate my precise mileage and thus, fuel cost. "Okay," I said.
"You don't need to fill it up yourself if you hit empty," he added. "We'll fill it up and just charge you, it's cheaper for you that way."
This sounded dubious, but with no other choice I drove off in the Atlas to run some errands. I hadn't gone far before I glanced down at the fuel gauge, and saw this:
Jeez, almost empty right off the lot. I called the VW service guy. "Hey, just a heads up, the tank is already almost empty," I said.
"No it's not," he said.
"I'm looking at it," I said. "It's almost on 'E.'"
"Well, the tank should be at least a quarter full," he said. "Fill it up if you need to, and we'll figure it out when you get back."
At the next stoplight, I took a closer look at the gauge:
Now that I wasn't glancing down at it while driving, I could see it was in fact 1/4 full. But what terrible design! What I saw, during the initial glance, was the illuminated red E and the arrow right next to it.
In a car, that arrow is meant to indicate what side the fuel filler is on (it's rumored that Ford designer Jim Moylan came up with this in 1986, to industry-wide emulation). However, on a vertical scale, arrows like that are typically used to indicate precise measurements against tick marks--picture a wall thermometer--and that's how my mind took it in.
Sitting at the red light, with time to study the gauge, I could now spot the white bars on the side.
Those little white bars--which are, unhelpfully, right next to the also-white vertical trim--are actually the things meant to indicate the fuel level. And I completely missed them at first glance.
I think this is truly horrible design, overly minimalist to the detriment of legibility. The gauge in the Alltrack is a much more sensible dial, with a red needle to boot. It's much easier to see precisely how much fuel is left.
Is it just me? Would you glance down at that gauge on the Atlas and instantly read 1/4 full?
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I am late to the party but it clearly is a poorly designed interface, whereas overwhelming number of comments also support this sentiment. Looking from a Gestaltist perspective, it is safe to say that this design is filled with ambiguous shapes whose purpose aren't easily-understood, which also don't have clear visual correlations to what they denote. Even the existence of this controversy is an indicatior of the shortcomings of this design.
The vertical orientation (as opposed to a round dial), is fine, since it’s reminiscent of filling a container. A noticeably wide vertical bar (as opposed to the two thin vertical rules) in solid white or ghosted back a little, would be clear at a glance. The “gas pump with bold right arrow” icon is confusing because the bold right arrow will always grab attention as the fill indicator. I’d get it away from the actual indicator.
Imo poor ui is more common than not on digital dashboards. It's almost impressive how this is a industry wide failure.
Not a great design. But what's up with the high comment engagement ?
Reading between the lines, this is what I understood. Your routine changed. The spiel was an annoyance. Having to call because of the indicator showing a quarter tank and which side of the vehicle the fuel filler is located.
Absolutely agree. Horrible design. Are the bars correct or is the pointer correct? You didn't mention the rest of the display but it looks incredibly cheap.
The design is bad, 100% with the author. I don’t care if someone was able to understand the gauge function successfully, the potential for misunderstanding is too high to justify this design. The whole thing just looks unpleasant and half backed.
Got the VW Atlas Cross Sport SE w/ Technology. Actual physical gas gauge. So far I'm very pleased with it.
I thought the exact thing! I drove my brand new jetta gli off the lot and saw I was almost on empty and promptly headed to a gas station, but in reality the tank was full! Too bad the gas pump icon and arrow did not float to indicate the fuel level in the tank.
It should have been moved over to the left a little more and moved up to the middle of the gauge. It needs separation from the lines on the gauge. Poor design.
Aside from the poor design of the instrumentation, the dealers collectively being concerned about the few gallons of gas you might use makes no sense. You're already paying a premium for dealer service (I saved at least 40% by going to an independent), and they've got the loaner to maintain and insure besides the capital investment, the fuel is negligible but an elaborate system was devised to figure out just how much you use - what did that cost?
You got the largest platform in the ID world and you write this. And they say industrial design lacks critical discourse.
I agree with this guy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFRIwu_OVlc
Totally agree that this is a bad UX/UI design, and I can't believe it's being executed by a large corporation such as VW. How could they not conduct usability survey before implementing the design? Looking at your (low-res) picture, the two vertical white bars representing the fuel level is so un-user-freindly. It is a very cheap, confusing and inaccurate way of digital representation of an otherwise clear and accurate analogue function. Each vertical bar represents 1/8th of the fuel level. So the two vertical bars represent a quarter tank right? No, it might just represent only slightly more than 1/8th of a tank of gas, and that tiny amount of fuel is being represented as a full 1/8th tank by that vertical bar. Not very helpful at all.
Very poor placement of the gas pump icon. At this point it would've been better to not have the icon at all. I'm surprised that the icon still exists in modern vehicle ui design for non-rental cars anway. Once you know the location of the gas opening in your car, it's not like it will change locations per trip and you'll probably fully remember its static location after 2 trips to the gas station in a new car.
Disappointing comments here. It's our responsibility to make everything as easy and foolproof to use as possible. Doubly so in a car where attention is valuable and lives are at stake. Doing a good job requires anticipating the ways in which designs can be misunderstood and removing that potential as much as possible. While it's true it is possible to read this gauge correctly, it's easy to get it wrong. The fuel filler indicator is too easily associated with the gauge markings, and the actual indicator can be overlooked and is too far from the hash marks.
no it's just you. I have the same gauges in my GLI. I instantly knew how to read it....
I agree, placing the gas pump/arrow symbol next to the bottom of the vertical gauge can mislead anyone. The two white lines are a little confusing, perhaps a yellow color instead? My fuel gauge is a circular analog type with a needle, the gas pump/arrow symbol at 9 o' clock, well above the empty mark for less confusion. When reaching the empty mark, several chimes and another gas pump symbol elsewhere in yellow turns on, telling me to fill up.
It's just you. I have an Atlas and had no issues whatsoever knowing where the gas gauge was. Also depending on the model you had the picture you showed with the digital representation of an analog speedometer there should have been a blue line on the inside the speedometer circle, that is also a gas gauge.
Yes that's a really crappy design. In my verano there's a very nice little gas tank with arrow sign elsewhere. And in fact years ago before they printed those little gas tank arrow signs I had a nice Green Dot on my dash on the left side to remind me where the gas tank was as we had two different cars with tanks on different sides.
Really you couldn’t see that? It’s pretty obvious it’s a fuel gauge on the side and the arrow is NOT what shows you were your filler cap is. What shows you what side the gas filler cap is on IS the gas gauge itself, so in this case it’s on the right side of the SUV.
Hideous and stupid. Dash items should be designed so that either a quick glance or touch will give you the information that you need. The longer someone has to take their eyes off the road or fumble around to find a setting for something like the climate controls, the more likely they are to have an accident.
Many opportunities to make this better, but the situational context of this being in lower areas of being filled does contribute to easily overlooking the bars. If it had been 80% full you'd at least parse it because you'd conflicting signals. At 100% equally bad, the gauge probably looks even more like another light edge. I agree with the premise that the arrow completely gets its "gas opening on the right" meaning obliterated by drivers reading this in relation to the scale, as a fill indicator first.
Cheap ways to mitigate: move the "right side" indicator away from the scale altogether (further to the left and below the E) and the linear scale would still work OK.
Slightly better in the Mini Clubman IMO ;)