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Ford MyTouch climate control screen
All your touch screens are belong to us?

With CES now in full swing, many automakers are loading us up with press releases on their latest tech wares destined for vehicles. We've already told you about Ford's 3 millionth SYNC installation and Tesla Motors is aiming for the fences with a 17" touch screen in its upcoming Model S electric sedan.

However, Consumer Reports is bringing a "cold shower" to the touch screen/touch sensitive button era that seems to be upon us. The publication, which tests vehicles based on a number of different categories, failed to recommend the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers despite the fact that the vehicles feature new styling inside and out, improved ride/handling, better performance, and improved fuel economy.

Instead, Consumer Reports dumped on the two vehicles because of the "overcomplicated MyFord Touch driver-interface system". While the vast array of touch screen controls may appeal to the gadget generation, Consumer Reports isn't having any of it. The publication says that the MyFord Touch system is a distraction while driving, adding:

Those screens are controlled by two steering-wheel-mounted five-way switches not unlike those found on a television remote or cell phone 

If that sounds confusing, it gets worse: The system also recognizes and responds to voice commands. It all adds up to three or four ways to make what should be simple adjustments. None of the options works as well or is as easy to use as old-fashioned knobs and switches, and they can be more time-consuming and distracting to operate. First-time users might find it impossible to comprehend. 

Consumer Reports ends their analysis of MyFord Touch by stating:

We hope Ford returns to using tactile buttons and knobs again. Improving the touch-screen interface would also help.

Ever since the launch of the iPhone, it seems as though the most popular portable devices have moved to a touch-sensitive screens even when they seem like a step back in usability (see iPod nano 6G). Everything from smartphones, to remote controls, to iPads, to all-in-one PCs now use touch screens -- it was only a matter of time before these systems would be integrated into mainstream vehicles to take over a number of secondary controls (and not just GPS/audio systems).

Ford isn't alone, however, when it comes to high-tech user interfaces in vehicles. The aforementioned Tesla Model S will likely have issues of its own when it comes to providing useful tactile feedback to drivers and the Chevrolet Volt does away with many traditional buttons and knobs in favor of touch sensitive controls.



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RE: hate to say it
By Drag0nFire on 1/4/2011 2:41:23 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I can live without knobs. But touch sensitive buttons really don't add anything for me, particularly in situations where you can't (shouldn't) look to see the button.

The two are not mutually exclusive (it is entirely possible to have both a touch screen and tactile buttons for important tasks).


RE: hate to say it
By Solandri on 1/4/2011 3:37:51 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The two are not mutually exclusive (it is entirely possible to have both a touch screen and tactile buttons for important tasks).

Correct. The way it should be implemented (and the way I believe it's implemented on aircraft) is that a set of dedicated buttons and knobs underneath the touchscreen change their function based on what's displayed on the touchscreen.

e.g. If the touchscreen is displaying the graphic equalizer, the left button controls the bass and the right the treble. If you then switch it to the clock adjustment screen, the left would would change the hours while the right would change the minutes. Making the user press the right spot and move along the correct axis on the touchscreen for these types of one-dimensional adjustments is a step backwards.


"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997














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