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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: yes, these are a bad idea
By CList on 1/4/2011 9:31:08 PM , Rating: 2
Actually what they need to do is get rid of *all* of this stuff from cars - for entertainment and navigation purposes.

The simple fact is that there will soon come a time - perhaps *very* soon - when most people will have all the entertainment and communication and navigation needs they could want in a tablet/phone/wallet/wristwatch that they carry with them everywhere. Why should car makers spend r&d dollars on things that have already been developed by software companies? Why would people pay more for a car that does something poorly that the phone/tablet they already own does well? Soon the auto makers will have to accept the fact that the majority of people will need/want to spend their money on smartphone/tablet before they spend it on car upgrades and the car will ultimately just have have a big blank space on the dashboard with a USB cable sticking out of it where we can dock our favorite phones/tablets/apparati etc. ...and THAT will be our interface for navigation, calls, traffic, music, podcasts, etc... the same familiar interface we use at home.

...and all of the controls for the AC, heat, and chair location will be done in hardware - where they should be.


RE: yes, these are a bad idea
By Zoomer on 1/5/2011 11:07:57 AM , Rating: 2
What about config options like rear/left/right sunshade, internal/external illumination after off time, child lock settings, headlamp settings, etc? These set once options don't need dedicated buttons that just clutter up the console.

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