The Ford Explorer is an automated vehicle driven on an electrified track through a set route in the park. It has protective covers over its steering wheel, and a set of cameras throughout the car:
- Twin cameras at the steering wheel looking out the windshield to give a remote chauffeur or computer system stereoscopic vision
- A small camera on the front bumper looking down at the track right in front of the vehicle
- Several cameras facing into the cab, giving park operators an opportunity to observe and interact with visitors. (See the subsequent SUV Surveillance post.)
Presumably, there are protective covers over the gas/brake pedal as well, but we never see that area of the interior; evidence comes from when Dr. Grant and Dr. Saddler want to stop and look at the triceratops they don’t even bother to try and reach for the brake pedal, but merely hop out of the SUV.
The SUVs also have an interactive CD-ROM player in the center console with a touchscreen. The CD-ROM has narrated, basic information about the park and exhibits, and has set points during the tour that it plays information about specific areas or dinosaurs.
The Single, Central Screen
For what should be a focal point and value add for everyone in the car is poorly placed and in-optimally set up. This would be the perfect situation for a second screen in the second console, at least. If we look to more modern technology, we could start to include HUD overlays on all the windows of the Ford Explorer to track dinosaurs (so passengers would know where to look). This could integrate with the need for better Night Vision Goggles.
A second concern is the hand-controlled interface. Suddenly, everyone in the SUV is subservient to the two people who are within touch distance of the screen. Jurassic Park has enough location data and content in the presentation to be able to customize the play order to the tour. This would keep an overactive kid from taking control of the screen and ruining the tour for everyone else in the car.
The Ford Explorers maintain the steering wheel and gear selectors from their off-the-shelf compatriots. This has two detriments on the passengers:
- Cramps the person in the driver’s seat
- Gives a false impression of control
The space is the most detrimental to the tour experience. While the passenger has legroom, arm room, and plenty of space to turn around; the driver is forced to deal with the space hogging controls that are unusable.
By keeping the steering wheel, the SUV also implies that the driver could take control of the car. We see no evidence of that, and Dr. Grant even climbs into the back of the Explorer instead of staying in the driver’s position.
The SUV drives itself, and shouldn’t give a false affordance that people are used to.
A more radical concept would be completely custom vehicles. Mercedes recently revealed a concept car focused around a lounge feel. Other carmakers have done the same (Ford, Chevy, ect…). It’s advantages are the increased social focus of the interior, and the easier access to all the windows.
Would this be more expensive? Yes, but as Hammond mentions frequently, they “spared no expense” to improve the experience for the guests.
The original article referenced these as Jeep Grand Cherokees… which they definitely are not. As pointed out by Cary (http://smokeythejeep.wordpress.com/), the only Jeeps on the island are the gas powered models that the park rangers and staff use to get around the island. These, as the article now states, are Ford Explorers ca. 1992.