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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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My X = Fail
By CList on 1/4/2011 3:18:42 PM , Rating: 1
A seemingly universal truism in UI / technology design is that naming something "My X" is a recipe for failure. IMO it sounds so corny and so redundant that it annoys users before they've even had a chance to try it. Of course it got a bad review; it could be the most brilliant system in the world, but with a name like "My Ford" people will feel a subconscious compulsion to hate on it.

Oh so many years ago when I did my first Windows XP install I saw the "My Documents" folder. I was like; "really?? MY Documents?? how stupid is that? If it's on MY computer, and it doesn't have anyone else's name on it - of course it's MY documents!". Pedant that I am, I proceeded to rename it, then and on the many re-installs of XP I did on many machines throughout the years. Microsoft has now, in Windows 7, realized that it's good business to make an OS that doesn't feel totally ghey, and so they've woken up and changed it to the less redundant, more polished "Documents".

Ford is so 5 years ago... I almost feel embarrassed for them. "My Ford", holy smokes man, who approved that one?


RE: My X = Fail
By cmdrdredd on 1/4/2011 10:10:42 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, and while consumer reports is quick to hate on this system, it is the very best and most intuitive and easiest to learn and use system of controls ever put inside a car.

Consumer reports hates anything new anyway. They always fail.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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