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Why touchscreens in cars don’t work (uxdesign.cc)
112 points by rubbercasing 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 100 comments

Well, duh.

This has been known in aviation for decades. It's called the "head-down time" problem.[1] There are Boeing studies at least back to 1979 on this. It's why combat aircraft have heads-up displays. Pilot training is big on minimizing head-down time. There are multiple crash reports where the pilot or pilots were looking at something on the panels too intently and not looking outside enough.

Aviation deals with this in several ways. Combat aircraft have heads-up displays and "hands on throttle and stick" layouts, with all the important buttons on the throttle and stick. The car version of that is putting controls on steering wheel buttons and stalks, and putting the important displays on the rear view mirror or directly in front of the driver.

Aviation also uses "cruise mode" as a dividing line. Below 10,000 feet, commercial aircraft have strict rules on unnecessary chatter and distractions in the cockpit. The crew must be focused on takeoff or landing. Above 10,000 feet, things are more relaxed. One could make a distinction between urban and open road driving for cars, but it's not clear it would help.

Watch "Children of the Magenta".[2] This is an American Airlines chief pilot talking to his pilots.

[1] https://books.google.com/books?id=YTAoEX4LiAUC&pg=PA254

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN41LvuSz10

I am really frustrated about this TBH. It is so incredibly obvious to me that it is a bad idea. Any time you spend looking down is time where the state of the cars around you are out of your view, and when you look back up, you have to take a split second to update your mental model of everything around you. A lot can happen in a split second, at 90kph you cover 25m in a second.

This is one of me and the SO's major bug bears. All the new cars sold here are touch screen only for everything, including climate control.

The thing is, people keep buying these because they show well in the showroom. Car manufacturers only import certain models in and they'll import what sells. Pretty soon I couldn't buy a non touch screen controlled model if I wanted to. What is the solution?

It's illegal to check your phone while driving because it's a distraction, maybe ban touch screens?

One feature that irks me on my 2017 Honda Civic:

Activate right turn signal, the main screen changes to right side camera feed, to help with the blind spot, very useful.

When activating the left turn signal, there is no left camera or activation on the screen, you need to use traditional driving skills and just look.

Nothing wrong with traditional skills, but I liken this to arbitrarily swapping around cancel/save buttons in UI/UX.

There are still blind spots on the driver side that could be obliterated by a wide angle video feed, but some PM has decided for me, for whatever reason, that I need to use two completely different driving strategies in real time. First world problem I realize.

Don't worry, Honda has solved your problem. The "LaneWatch" feature (the right side camera) was prominent on the Accord from 2013 to 2017. But it's gone in the 2018 model.

I'm sure it will also disappear from the Civic when the platform is updated. So, just wait a few years and buy a new Civic without the camera.

Which is too bad for us. Because my wife and I both love the feature on our Accord. It's a lot safer than craning your head back to see if a car is in the passenger side blind spot. When you're 20-something it's a lot easier to turn your head back to look in the blind spot than to do that when you're 60-something.

We have the 2013 Accord and thought seriously of buying one of the remaining 2017 models on dealer lots just to keep this feature. That's how valuable it is to my wife.

AKA Different strokes for different folks.

I do agree with your lament about how the interaction is different between left vs right lane changes. The UI is much different. But I personally had no problem getting used to the feature. Perhaps that's perhaps because I had 40+ years of driving experience with the old method. So, adding a new method was simple. And the key word is "adding". Only one of our cars has the feature so we still need to use the old method on the other cars. Aside: when you're in suburbia and stores and schools are all miles away, you will have multiple cars. Perhaps even a minivan. :)

The 2018’s blind spot detection works great for that purpose, but you are relying on feedback (generally a beep), not a video feed

Just curious, which side do you drive on? Could it be that the problem that the random PM was looking to be solved is that the "harder" side (e.g. the one where your blind spot is partially obscured by the front passenger seat head rest) needs an assist?

I have mixed thoughts on driver assist technologies.

A Honda Jazz I drove once has the rear parking assist camera slightly off centre, so you park off centre if you rely on it. I didn't use it ever again.

A Kia Sorento I drove once had blind spot audio sensors on both sides - if you signalled, the car would gently tell you if there was something at or near your blind spot. Great... except you should be checking your blind spot anyway, right? I ended up ignoring it.

On the other hand, proximity sensors seem to me to be very useful for parallel parking in tight spaces. I'd miss it if it were gone.

I'm not sure what the consistent factor in all of these things are.

US driver, right lane. It’s weird because I don’t drive a lot currently, and the camera/screen tech is new to me. But I noticed my driving habits changed with reliance on the camera feed. So having to switch between analog/traditional driving skills and heavily assisted new skills just felt weird. Definitely applying UI/UX over thinking but can’t help it since it’s what I do.

I have only two small points to add:

1) I have a modern car with a screen on the dash between passenger and driver, but it's touch function is disabled when the car is moving. You control it with a dial and buttons that is near the gear stick - and these physical items have edges and size differences so I didn't need to look down even when the car was new to me. For some car manufacturers this is obviously a priority.

2) When I first got a car with cruise control, I marvelled at how much extra time I was able to spend looking at potential hazards and the road ahead when it was enabled. Driving where I am in Australia there are kangaroos to avoid (I'm not joking), particularly at dusk and dawn, and the small moments I used to spend checking my speed are now moments I do not potentially look away at a crucial moment. It isn't just touchscreens that can be engineered to help reduce head-down time.

I can only second this. Coming from a BMW with a physical controller, I now constantly have to try to keep my fingers steady enough to target the right button on the screen, which is hard when the rest of the car moves and shakes. Volvo kind of solved this shaking-problem by placing the gear shift in a way so that you can rest you wrist on it while touching the screen.

Seems like unfortunately only a few automakers understand this, like Acura [1] or BMW [2] and resist this trend.

[1] https://www.engadget.com/2018/05/16/acura-rdx-true-touchpad-...

[2] https://www.bmwblog.com/2017/10/11/bmw-touchscreen-infotainm...

Exactly this. Touch-screens require too much attention, they are even unsafe for walking. "Smartphone lanes" opened in some US or Chinese cities prove it [0].

The future should be taking example from aviation and building some AR with full windshield HUD or glasses (Google Glass/MS Hololens style). Then to keep control over that I would be fine with real buttons, touch-pad, track-point, or whatever which doesn't need my head-down after short self-training.

But it is not only hardware. I simply want undo feature in infotainment software! It is so irritating when I have ask passenger to take over control when I get lost in menu maze in traffic.

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2014/sep/15/chin...

I would take it further and say “why touchscreens for most devices don’t work”

(hifi/stereo, thermostat, desk phone, etc)

Who really wouldn’t rather use a 1970s-80s silver stereo with buttons, compared to a cloud/digital player today?

If clutter is an issue, check the book “Dieter Rams: As little design as possible”

Obviously the overall experience on an iPhone is better than a blackberry, but the sheer speed and “lookahead” actions, where the input speed can exceed the UI state, is on another level.

The same holds true for a console type order entry screen (think old school pizza parlor unix). Of course the features are lacking, but using hotkeys and not waiting on UI, is an entirely different experience in regards to speed.

Preaching to the choir here I realize. More related to the story, I have a 2017 Honda Civic and every time I change the volume, my dev hat activates, thinking just wtf from a safety perspective.

Full disclosure: I’m 35, not too old and cranky yet

> Obviously the overall experience on an iPhone is better than a blackberry

I don't know, the iPhone has more modern apps but for typing I've not found any touch screen phone which comes close to a BlackBerry 9900 keyboard, that was perfection to me. The newer models, such as the Priv and KeyOne, are not as nice to type on as the 9900 but still far superior to others.

European and Japanese cars of the early 90s had the best UI that just lets you concentrate on driving. No cupholders, usable storage space on the dashboard due to the lack of airbags, angular-everything, well laid-out knobs and switches orientated towards the driver.

That's why I still keep my '95 Rover Coupe:


This is why I love my 15-year-old Honda S2000 dashboard.


Minimal interface with just 2 dials for vents and heating and 2 rockers for volume and fan speed, which are impossible to miss. Everything is tilted towards the driver so there's no reason to ever take your eyes off the road.

Everything else just gets out of the way.

I drive it daily without choosing between 8 suspension settings, 5 sport modes, the perfect climate control temperature, heated seats, driver position profiles, voice commands, cruise control, awkward bluetooth pairing or proprietary navigation systems, and I haven't missed any of those things during the last 3 years with the S2000.

Touchscreens are a lazy solution to handle (or hide) the insane arms race of features imposed upon the UI designers to compete with the market. More settings in the 2019 model? Just add another tab! The Tesla Model 3 is a prime example - a super minimal car in every respect, until you use the touchscreen.

There's zero consideration whether stripping features out would actually make a better car overall, so I can only see the trend continuing.

> Obviously the overall experience on an iPhone is better than a blackberry

How is this obvious? My impression is that this only applies to casual users, i.e. Apple designs UIs mainly for lowly skilled users whereas others focus more on mid-range or power users.

When people call it generically "Blackberry" I assume they mean the keyboard models.

Now I'll ask this as a long time fan of BB (in the past) and a person who's been using keyboard BB models daily with no interruption since the 6230 (circa 2003) up to this day: have you tried internet browsing on those things lately? It's better than nothing, I'll give you that, but just marginally. And that's not the only thing they don't do well. Even the age-old argument that physical keyboards are better/faster/whatever was destroyed a long time ago. Even after years of using the BB to the point I thought I'd get RSI I managed to be substantially more proficient with a virtual keyboard in no time. I can't imagine a scenario that's not the weirdest corner case where the BB does better.

Probably the only thing they might do better is typing while driving. Something that is more likely to classify a person as a power-loser. And that's because as this article says, touchscreens and controlling multi-ton vehicles don't mix well.

I think the argument of "professionals use Blackberry, amateurs use Apple" expired a looong time ago. Right around the time everybody gave up their Blackberry (including Blackberry) for an iOS or Android device. People should stop pushing that and try to find something else to make them feel important, smart, whatever.

Doing things the cumbersome way doesn't make you a power user. Doing them fast and well does.

I find typing on a physical keyboard substantially easier when moving, or when using a phone one-handed.

But phones these days are primarily used for consumption and non-textual content creation.

I'm sure each person will find scenarios that make sense with a specific hardware or UI.

But considering the total usage scenarios of a modern day smartphone such a narrow advantage tends to pale. To the point where claiming that a modern touch UI (iOS/Android) is for "lowly skilled users" can only be gratuitously insulting a vast majority of people, or simply an attempt to artificially elevating your own image.

While personal preference is up to each of us, issuing such blanket statements based on those preferences will invariably be wrong. If you need a Blackberry to tell people you're a "power user" then you are not a power user.

I'm wondering if something that could make quite a difference is that from a design perspective touchscreens are far more forgiving than proper buttons, if you fuck up the interface all you need is a software update not a change to your manufacturing process. I obviously couldn't say for certain but something like this might end up making touchscreens a lot cheaper in the long run even if usability takes a hit.

I think this is a good point, but reminds me of a comment about space travel software/firmware (probably Elon or NPR astronaut interview) where you know you can’t push any more updates or hit redo. I think it changes the priority of design/features and you just don’t release bs, compare to the Apple maps/console game/xx where products literally ship broken becasuce you can always fix with a 5gb patch next week.

Have you seen buttonless touchscreen card payment terminals. Those 7 inch ones. Oh god.

My '72 dodge has only two controls, the gas and the steering wheel. No need for anything else. (And I'm not convinced the steering wheel is actually necessary.)

A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design (from Bret Victor in 2011): http://worrydream.com/ABriefRantOnTheFutureOfInteractionDesi...

We need to stop thinking about touchscreens as futuristic. They're a one-size-fits-all, budget option.

The true "luxury experience" would be a custom, tactile control panel, designed not just around how it appears in design renderings, but also around how it feels to actually use.

One reason not to buy new vehicles. I'm not sure I can be bothered with anything newer that doesn't have actual knobs and buttons for the radio and heater. Being able to operate things by touch without taking your eyes off the road should be an iron-clad rule.

You can't though, controls started going modal with screens even though they have buttons around 1997. The mode is cycled through using a button press in most devices, so you have to _look_ at it know what mode it is in. It would be o.k. if the mode selector switch was a toggle or to a lesser degree a rotor.

This is the control panel in my pickup: http://www.1factoryradio.com/2010-ford-f-150-pickup-radio-te...

So many glorious buttons with unique raised labels. But just about everything you actually need to manipulate is controlled by the four large knobs. If you need to change the clock or mess with the equalizer, that is modal, but I have to pull out and read the manual to remember how that works anyway...

My friend has a newer Edge and it's all touchscreen. You need a copilot to adjust the AC.

>My friend has a newer Edge and it's all touchscreen. You need a copilot to adjust the AC.

Whats even more fun is that they then went and realized that touchscreens while driving is dangerous, so now you can't change settings even with a copilot, unless you're at a complete stop.

That is nice, you could operate it blind. Which oddly, enough is how car controls should be designed.

Another vision which provides an alternative(evolution?) to touch screens is Hiroshi Ishii's "Radical Atoms" from the Tangible Media Group:


It's nice argument that hands are the future of good design.

It seems like clever combinations would be useful. Hands, feet, even arms and legs. Everything appropriately seems like what could design could look like.

The worry in my mind is whether good interfaces are the future. Perhaps the future is "good enough" interfaces. Once basic usability is achieved, the software developers simply have other agendas and no particular reason to further empower their users. Instead fluff, branding, corporate egos or whatever will prevail - look at the evolution of PC interfaces as an example.

So as long as the horrible Prius touch screens don't cause actually large numbers of crashes, they'll stay around in all their annoying "glory".

There's no reason to settle for "good enough" in a car that costs $100,000, though. The reason Tesla can get away with using a touchscreen instead of a better interface is that people think of them as futuristic and cool.

Indeed, but the challenge is how many people have a strong idea of what an actually good interface is. People may continue thinking how touch screens are futuristics for a long time, for all we know.

It seems like the lesson of Steve Jones career and the old Henry Ford saying ("If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse") is that UI advancement needs a lot of leadership.

> It seems like clever combinations would be useful. Hands, feet, even arms and legs

Hold your steering Wheel with your legs so that you can change your radio station?

Touchscreens are for UI that needs to reconfigure constantly -- i.e., for multiple-purpose devices. Smartphones are great examples. One minute it's a restaurant review guide, then it's a messaging device, then it's a compass, then it's a camera. When you need more buttons, they appear, when you need fewer buttons, they disappear.

A car is largely a single purpose device. You always have the same few set of things you want to do in the car. Climate, Radio, Maps, etc. A touchscreen is a boneheaded interface for this device.

Imagine if your on-off lightswitches were touchscreens. If your stovetop interface was a touchscreen. If your refrigerator ice dispenser was a touchscreen (I've seen this). Completely moronic, every single one of them.

>If your stovetop interface was a touchscreen

Mine have capacitive (or IR ?) buttons (similar to [1]). Easier to clean, inconvenient to use. I miss the knobs in my old place.

[1] https://www.pulsat.fr/media/catalog/product/cache/8/image/9d...

I think that's mostly an issue of haptics (and the lack thereof). My stovetop also uses capacitive buttons but the buttons themselves don't change, the biggest issue is the lack of feedback and eyes-free operation.

Many have some irritating multi-step process: select the zone, then select the power or use up/down buttons instead of direct power level selection.

Those I've used had 2~3 buttons (3 if they support a timer) for each zone, so a 4-zone stovetop would have 4 pairs of buttons. The non-timer buttons would still just be +/- though, no direct power selection/

Some cookers do have.. well not touchscreens but they use capacitative buttons. They are even worse than you imagine.

Both my parents and my in-laws have ceramic electric stoves with capacitative buttons (or resistive, not sure) that stop working when your fingers are wet or greasy or the stovetop is too hot. It's horrible.

Stovetops with capacitive buttons are much nicer than the cheaper resistive buttons. Never had any problems with the two inductive stovetops I have owned, but vacation homes with cheaper electric stovetops with resistive buttons is more hassle. The flat surface of both variants makes them easy to keep clean and child lock.

Ah, my oven uses a touch screen. It’s a mess for some things, but it does allow for very sophistication menu systems, with creating custom programs and whatnot.

Unless the touchscreen is fully redundant, I cannot imagine it being worth the loss of physical buttons for the 99% of times you are warming up a pizza slice for 5 minutes.

Well, yes. Mostly true, and it has brought much annoyance :-)

Of course, The pizza setting is two pushes away: first “my programs”, then “Single pizza slice”, and it remembers to run hot air all the time and then the grill for the last minute.

What’s the model?

I actually have two... One is a Miele H 6860 BP, while the other is a H 6800 BP.

(Entirely unrelated: Does anybody know how to check the software version on these ovens?)

OK, if you cook enough to use two ovens maybe the programmable oven is suitable for you.

Well touchscreens will show you new, better organized or painted buttons (with the power of FOSS of course). Surely you don't wanna swap half of your dash every time someone comes up with something better?

How much is my car UI really going to improve over 10 years? Without some kind of revenue model, the manufacturer wants you to upgrade, and there isn't really anything that's actually useful that can ship post-build without installed hardware (eg blindspot warning, rearview camera)

For those who don't believe in improving UI, there still exists a possibility of tweaking the stock to suit one's needs.

"Better" for whom? This is how we got Windows putting adverts in the start menu. Someone's going to start putting unskippable adverts in car AC controls next.

Nope, you got windows putting adverts in the start menu because of weak-willed 'consumers' tolerating oppressive crap that is win10. There is nothing wrong with using Linux or Win7 on desktop right now.

Car UIs get worse over time, not better.

On my dodge, if I want AC, I just roll down the window. It never goes on the fritz.

> Car UIs get worse over time, not better.

Unsubstantiated claim of the year. "Everything there was to be discovered is already discovered".

I don't need a 150 page manual to operate the older ones. The new ones all have these stupid icons that I have no idea what they mean. If only there was a method for putting text, like "defroster", on buttons!

Voice will only do it, when I can actually speak on my mother tongue and be understood.

Being forced to use foreign language to talk to my car system and playing accents until the system finally gets it, means I don't bother using it at all.

As for touch screens, having had a near miss with, I also avoid using them as much a possible.

I need tactile feedback.

Languages is perhaps one of the largest hurdles for voice at this point. I can't even get my browser to understand that I switch between Danish and English multiple times a day and adjust spell checking accordingly. So having a voice controlled system that will understand multiple languages simultaneously doesn't seem likely in the near future.

Forget voice control with kids in the car :)

Every time I see posts about car touch screen interfaces, and the associated UX problems, I am reminded of this video I saw a few years ago [0].

I think it is an elegant solution (only allow ONE thing to be controlled by the touch screen at a time), however will require a lot of learning and remembering to get used to all the different gestures.

[0] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVbuk3jizGM

It is not what is on the screen but the screen itself.

From the article:

"even when our participants weren’t performing tasks associated with the touchscreen, their eyes were still drawn away from the road and towards the screen"

So even with a good UI a screen is still distracting drivers.

This is one of the reasons I dislike always-on screens in pubs. Instead of engaging with my friends we're all drawn to the tv screens, even when there's nothing interesting playing. It takes more effort for everyone to stay in the conversation.

But why do we check smartphone screens all the time? We expect change (notifications, clock). Once we have learned what kind of changes are to be expected on the car’s display, and when, then the checking will subside. It will stop being interesting.

The problem with smartphones is that you never know whether a new push notification will appear or not - a message, an interesting news article, a hot deal - so the screen is always loaded with the possibility of bringing something new and interesting. That’s why I switched off email notifications. Messages are not happening so often for me that I check all the time.

A car‘s dashboard should IMO never show push notifications.

But if you watch the video - you can fully interact with the screen without having to look at it. Just place two, three, four or five fingers anywhere on the screen and move up or down.

I know initially people's eyes will be drawn to the screen to check whether they are manipulating the right parameter etc., but over time, I would expect that the hand will just drop to the screen, (multi) touch and move without eyes having to leave the road.

This is slightly better than a traditional touchscreen interface. However, it still lacks consistent tactile feedback.

For an extremely simply example, take the headlight control in my car [0]. Thanks to the tactile click, I can feel that the control has responded to my input. Not only that, but it is near impossible to fumble and accidentally set it incorrectly. When people talk about touchscreens in their car, I like to tell them to imagine this switch was a completely smooth disc, could spin 360 degrees, and gives no resistance when turned. Now, try setting it to one of the 3 settings without looking at it.

[0] - http://images.gtcarlot.com/pictures/56272534.jpg

What if you'll lose one of your finger? Then you can not use some functionalities anymore :)

Touchscreens are good for small devices like smartphones or tablets. For everything beyond that I can't imagine why anyone wants them. The distance between hands and eyes on the human body makes it a clumsy way to interact. You either have to look down or raise your arm very high. And then you obstruct your view with the hand.

For the driver of a car, I guess the perfect presentation is: Small amounts of important information should be shown in a head-up display. All the rest in a display behind the wheel. The controls should be on the wheel.

Then some stuff should be redundant (hvac, media, navigation to enter destinations) in the center console mostly for the passenger. The display should be high, the controls low. There is a single good use for a touch screen: point on the map to select a destination.

Agreed. I have Carplay in my car, but lucky most of the controls are via good old fashioned buttons and twiddly knobs. I sat in a Tesla for the first time about a month ago, and was astounded at just how cluttered and horribly designed (lack of visual heirarchy) the big screen was. I'll stick with the physical buttons thanks.

Even with the simplified Carplay interface I find my eye straying from the road too often, frankly. I do find the voice controls useful, though.

Physical buttons and switches have a fixed position and give a steady, reassuring feedback when pressed. UI controls on a touch screen can be anywhere and the physical feedback just isn't there. Not to mention that most current infotainment systems are dog-slow to respond.

There is something critical about usability, location of controls and feel, that's why buttons, switches and dials have been our friends for so long. An LCD as many mentioned have none of these though they compensate in terms of how much functionality can be crammed into them, but, at the cost of UI/UX. On the other hand buttons or physical controls fail more often than LCDs.

Also muscle memory. When using an LCD one has to look at it whereas with buttons it takes a bit of learning at the beginning and after a short time then fingers go right on the spot without even looking or sometimes touching..

LCDs have multiple states so the location is not fixed. Muscle memory is not working very well in this case

Hope we can learn something from the past and innovate more.

As an anecdote, about 10 years a go I was interested into digital instruments (VSTs and such). After a few years I switched to real gear out of curiosity and was amazed at how much easier the UI/UX was and how well some things were thought out. I wanted to do something and my fingers would jump on the right buttons without even thinking. I surprised myself with this. This is very critical in some situations. Creativity can be hampered by something that steals your attention, even a few glimpses start adding up.. Same thing goes with safety.

I completely agree with this. I had a dash mount for my phone but I quit using it because it was so distracting to have the phone up there.

I rented a new Mustang last month and the UI was almost all touchscreen, even for climate control. After a week with that car, I decided I don't want a new car, at least until they can figure out how to give me some of that tactile control back again.

The insights on voice control are good. It seems like a winner but in practice I never like it.

I had to get a cheaper car than I wanted/could afford to avoid aggravating and accident-inducing touchscreen technology.

I have rented numerous cars where the touchscreen could not be deactivated, the most I could do was turn the brightness down. It should be a law that auto manufacturers have a symboled toggle to turn off the non-essential displays in a car.

Why are you trying to do things while on the road? Set the climate control to 22°C, start the music, set the turn by turn navigator, then get on with driving.

Why is the experiment testing any kind of interfering with unfamiliar controls while the vehicle is in motion?

The flaw isn't the UX, it's the tasks being performed and when they're being performed.

I've been using echo dot inside my car and I couldn't be happier (got it at 50% thanks to prime day). The integration with Amazon music is pretty cool and everything just works! Of course so far it's for music only but I'm pretty sure that if you can control light bulbs with it, car mods aren't much behind!

I bought a touchscreen kindle. Gave it up for the older one with page turn buttons, which is just much nicer to use. Amazon nailed it with the kindle 3, and all the later ones are downhill.

Yep, I'm still using my one with physical buttons. It's a shame that market has completely stagnated, as it's letting Amazon release ridiculously expensive new models with the features they removed from the last few versions of their standard devices.

I like the Kindle 3 so much I bought a second one, used, as a backup for when the first dies.

I drove a Range Rover Velar - the interior is one giant touchscreen with additional sub menus, etc. To be honest I did find myself distracted from the road because of this. The worst though is the SatNav popups that will inform you about a better route, changes - or ironically to make sure you are concentrating on the road. All of which require you to use the touchscreen to remove so you can see where you are supposed to be going.

I haven't seen anyone mention a Formula 1 steering wheel. Many many many functions, operable at 200+ MPH. No touchscreen. Just lots of knobs and buttons. But they do impose a very high cognitive load in operation.


Years ago, I got a patent for adding morse code to a phone with a rocker switch. The idea is one could text people without needing to look at the phone. You could also receive texts with morse by vibrating the phone.

With a bit of practice, you could have the phone in your pocket, and send/receive without bothering anyone or taking your eyes off your task.

Whatever happened to inflatable buttons. https://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2009-07/your-next-tou...

Apologies completely off topic, I'm not a web developer, would someone be able to explain what the nearly 200 cookies that popsci.com are using are for? Only 69 are for popsci itself.

Check the Application > Cookies section of your dev tools (F12). It should list them all.

I saw the list on the GDPR acknowledgement but am wondering what they could all possibly be doing?

This is exactly why i've bought a car stereo with android that also has normal volume buttons on the side etc, most of them handle everything by touch but a normal button is still a lot easier, better feedback..

An iPhone was the touchscreen they used in their study? Hardly comparable to in car screens.

One of the reasons I'm not buying a Tesla.

touchscreens work in cars, just not for stuff you need while driving.

I don't use my car when I'm not driving though

I released an android app with 6 large buttons to control different types of sirens on emergency vehicles, been in use for a few years now.

Sorry I never completed my response, just to say that in the field there were issues with users and the touch screen, they found the mechanical system easier to use

Strange, I've driven my Tesla S 70D about 15 000 kilometres since Christmas and the touchscreen definitely works. So, channelling Douglas Adams, presumably the author has some new meaning for "don't work".

Rowing the same distance in a boat, on dry land, would also "work". But not necessarily in an optimal or convenient way. Just like a touchscreen.

Writing from a seatbelt-less 1968 VW Bus where every corner of the vehicle is visible and where the dashboard has just the speedometer and a couple of warning lights:

"Why digital maps in cars don't work"

"Why backup cameras in cars don't work"

"Why carphones in cars don't work"

"Why CD players in cars don't work"

"Why climate controls in cars don't work"

"Why cup holders in cars don't work"

"Why electric windows in cars don't work"

"Why cigarette lighters in cars don't work"

I think the Tesla big screen is the future and any talk of adding in gazillions of allegedly tactile buttons is defeatist.

Maybe it would be better if new drivers had VW Bus mode, i.e. no distractions, not even a map.

Then the features could be unlocked over time. Or the car could make you pull over to access the full menu system. If you are barrelling down the road at 70 miles per hour then you shouldn't be able to touch anything or be shown anything superfluous.

If you then pull over into the service station then the display should then kick into life, show more than the basics and become interactive.

Such a system could be adaptive, based on conditions different gadgetry could be shown. This would be a different design ethos to 'infotainment' and would require regulation or insurance premium fixes to make it a thing.

Lets see we start with a false dichotomy of a 60s VW bus or something new and shiny as if the shiny in dash ui is why we want new and shiny and between a gazillion buttons and a crappy modal touchscreen that shows a gazillion different buttons in different screens instead. Ignoring the logical choice of a handful of important buttons for oft used features.

Interfaces are interesting to you because you want to design them the people driving to work could basically give two shits. The interface to the cars ui is the least interesting thing they could possibly imagine about their new car and if they notice it you probably screwed it up.

People like uninteresting interfaces that work like stuff they are already used to that are easy to operate preferably while cruising down the interstate at 70 miles per hour.

The last thing people could possibly want is an interface that silently changes state based on what the car thinks is going on because they will almost certainly just think its broken when it doesn't work as expected.

This also means that people will find that passengers can't use for example navigation while the car is moving because the car thinks is protecting the user from themselves. They will respond by grasping their phone in one hand while holding the wheel in the other so they can navigate or slightly better getting a little mount for their phone which will always be relatively new tech while their car quickly gets more obsolete long before the car outlives its usefulness.

The most amazing choice of words in the entire post is where you describe putting actual buttons as defeatist as if foisting crappy ui were a mission rather than an affliction.

I don't think anybody ever uttered any of those "don't work" phrases as they're all quality of life improvements, as opposed to a touch screen.

Also, you're not qualified to offer an opinion on a touch screen in a car because you haven't tried one long term ;)

I agree. I doubt there is any turning back, which was a UX nightmare anyway.

I do agree that tactile and predictable locations for the most commonly used functions improve the ability of the driver to focus on the road while operating them.

However, I doubt there are many customers willing to go back to the 12 disc CD changer days where you're randomly selecting discs to get the song you want, or manually scanning blindly until you hit a radio station with reception and the music you like.

We have streaming services and playlists now, and there is an expectation that those are available to you on the road.

We also no longer simply have a dial going from cold too hot for climate. We have basics like direction (feet, center, windscreen), circulating or external air, AC on or off, and then couple that with multi zone, and you end up in the same mess.

If we get rid of the screen but keep the functionality, we end up with an airliner cockpit. If you want to operate that blindly, I think that's more time than any customer would be willing to invest in learning, and we're in deeper trouble than where we started ("where is the damn rear right seat warmer adjustment!").

I do agree that the current state of controls are suboptimal though, but that's exactly the point. We should focus our efforts on optimizing that. For instance modal controls displaying selected mode in HUD, either in the instrument panel or on the windscreen.

I drive a comparatively simple Peugeot 308, which had a horrible touch screen, but not too much functionality. I agree that I check out more often than I should, but that's mainly when I want to know what song is playing on the radio. It took two years to discover a steering wheel shortcut to pick from a 30-station preset list of dab channels.

I doubt any level of modal tactile control would allow me to intuitively change the audio fader settings between "driver" and "all passengers", but then again, that's something I've learned to do while generally focusing on the road as it's a predictable series of touch screen presses. I'm sure it's not great to do that in terms of overall attentiveness regardless how focused I think I am, but given that the alternative is not having the option.. I'll take my chances. And so, I think, will other consumers.

Whatever can be done to improve the UX and reduce risk should be done however, and it should be a higher priority than style.

Almost all of these can be controlled with a reasonable number of mechanical controls. It just takes more effort to design them than to throw together a crappy touchscreen UI.

> barrelling down the road at 70 miles per hour

A '68 VW bus won't go faster than 65 (unless you drive it off a cliff).

Source: drove one across the US a couple times.

You need a bigger tow-truck, obviously.

* http://jdebp.info./Humour/volkswagen-lexicon.html

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