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American Drivers Still Like to Kick it Old School

We love touchscreens... and buttons? Americans reveal their true colors as old-school "button-pushers."

by
Becky Graebner

Bio

July 4, 2013 - 1:00 pm
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Take a look around. Granted you aren’t alone in your home or isolated in a cubicle, there are probably several people around you and they are either a) on a phone b) on a computer/tablet or c) staring at a TV.

The modern age is obsessed with technology, innovation, and sleek, time-saving gadgets.  The computer has infiltrated our kitchen appliances, car interiors, and home security systems. My parents’ kitchen has a toaster that sings and a microwave with funky, blue LED lights. Why?  Because we love it.  We drool over the simplistic piece of glass that allows us to control just about everything with just a few finger taps.  We just think it’s cool… and it is.

Car manufacturers have taken this proclivity for touch screens and tech and have integrated them into our second living rooms: the car.  Interestingly, the appearance of computers in the car has experienced a mild backlash.  Not only is this criticism fueled by frustration over systems that are too complicated or hard to understand, but also by American drivers’ attachment to buttons and knobs.  Funny, right?  After all our obsessive antics regarding touch screens and “simplicity” and it turns out we still, secretly, like buttons and knobs.  See, we’re still traditionalists.

These days, most car brands have computers in their newest models—the computer is the newest “standard feature.” In the case of Ford and its MyTouch system, reviews have been mixed.  Spotty tech performance aside, the main gripe seems to be that drivers have a hard time operating the system while driving.  Many drivers are unable to adjust the volume or change the radio station because they do not have knobs—and must click through a few computer windows to complete the task via a touch system.  Some brands, such as Infiniti, have actually designed their computer systems to “lock” while the car is in motion. While this is a good safety measure it wouldn’t be necessary if the car still contained a few essential buttons or knobs.

touchscreen

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All Comments   (8)
All Comments   (8)
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Anything that takes you away from the job at hand
[I E : driving your friggen' car] is dumb, to the point of putting a plastic bag over it's head to make it go away.
Some of this stuff is just mind bending. Example : Car and Driver was testing a Jag a while ago and it had radar-assisted cruise control. The sucker was 'reading' cars going the opposite way on a freeway [in a sweeping bend] and applying the brakes while going 70-plus mph. While being a device that just might keep you totally awake, I'm not sure it's anything I'd want or "need". If I have to play with a device to achieve a simple result, it is not only not-needed it is expressly not-wanted anywhere near me or mine.
Don't get me started on self-driving cars.......
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm going to show my colors as an old, crotchety, bitter reactionary...but I despise cars that are essentially computers on wheels. Overly complicated, expensive, and nearly impossible to repair. I'm hoping the trend won't continue forever, and at some point we'll come back around to the earliest automotive trend: simplification, using as few parts as possible to do the job. Uncle Henry's Model Ts still run 100 years later. (as do Detroit Electrics, BTW) Think any new car will still be running in 2113?
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
My Acura has volume control right on the steering wheel. Genius.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Kinesthetics. That's why push-buttons and knobs are still liked. Tapping on a screen doesn't provide any real feedback to the body and it is essentially another visual input medium, sometimes with an annoying "beep" to convince you something actually happened.

With a push-button you actually feel the thing move then stop. You know without looking something happened because you feel it. By turning a knob you can estimate the setting by how far you turn it.

Simply put, the eyes are the main sense for humans but they weren't meant to be the ONLY sense. Most people don't do much exercise or manual labor, so that pushing and twisting provides kinesthetic feedback the body was designed to experience and report. Pecking on imaginary buttons on a screen just doesn't cut it.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
I recently drove a rental car that has the touchscreen controls plus knobs for on-off and volume. Not a bad combination. However, what happens when the computerized system goes bad as it will? Lots of money to fix.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
My Honda has a touch screen for channel selection, which is five times more work for the driver than a 1970s push-button radio was

That's how I've always felt about touch screens - I despise them. Some things cannot be improved - one of them being an old fashioned dial for the volume on a stereo.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
The main problem with a touchscreen in a car is that you have to LOOK at it. With a dial you can kind of glance over to find it and then get your eyes back where they belong, on the road. Much safer.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Interface design in general has become a lost art - I give you the idiotic recent redesign here on PJMedia. Not only to people not bother to develop good designs, they press forward with bad designs that violate a dozen basic principles, if anyone ever actually studied the issue.

However, fwiw, my new Honda still uses a knob for radio volume, so Ford got out ahead of common practice on that one. My Honda has a touch screen for channel selection, which is five times more work for the driver than a 1970s push-button radio was. I just dunno what some of these companies are using for brains.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
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