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Leave the large touch screens to tablets

It's no secret that Consumer Reports has shown no love for the MyFord Touch infotainment/secondary control system in the latest crop of Ford vehicles. Ford's move to a touchscreen- and touch sensitive button-based system for nearly all secondary controls in the vehicle flies in the face of conventional wisdom where your eyes are supposed to be on the road, so Consumer Reports' concerns are mostly valid.
Consumer Reports writes, "MyFord Touch still frustrates us like few other control systems in any other brand's automobiles. And worse, it is influencing competitors, such as GM, with its Cadillac CUE system." The complaints are numerous, ranging from hard to discern flush capacitive switches, to poor steering wheel controls, to poorly designed center consoles that make using the touch screen difficult. In addition, the touch sensitive buttons can sometimes be too sensitive, registering multiple button presses.

Consumer Reports complains that the recessed screen in the 2013 Ford Escape makes reaching climate/radio controls (which are located at the corners of the screen) difficult to reach [Image Source: Ford]
But "What about the voice commands?” defenders might argue. Well, Consumer Reports states that while voice commands should help alleviate some of the troubles of using the touch screen system, they are just an troublesome crutch in practice for commonly used controls:
The voice commands are helpful for complicated inputs, like entering a destination in the navigation system or choosing a playlist from a phone or an iPod. But using them for basic commands, such as temperature or radio tuning, is time consuming and cumbersome. It feels like a Band-Aid for the car's poorly designed physical controls.
And Consumer Reports even goes so far as to reach out to the gaming audience by invoking the use of physical controls on gaming systems like the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Vita, etc.:
Ever consider why video games still use separate controllers with physical buttons, knobs, and joysticks? You never have to take your eyes off the screen, where the bad guys could appear suddenly and shoot you. The same should be true for the view of the road out the windshield while driving. Studies have shown that crashes escalate dramatically the longer drivers take their eyes off the road. We think MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch require far too many glances away from traffic to operate even common functions. And the voice command system is awkward enough that for simple adjustments, most of our drivers don't use it instead.
Consumer Reports goes on to say that simply calling them "newbs" at MyFord Touch isn't a proper defense for the systems. The publication has tested six vehicles with MyFord Touch (and the MyLincoln Touch) and has logged over 20,000 miles using it, so their drivers are quite familiar with all aspects of the system.

Ford's handsome new 2013 Fusion also comes with MyFord Touch. The Fusion is a volume seller for Ford, so the automaker can't afford big missteps. [Image Source: Ford]
We should also point out that Consumer Reports isn't the only publication to give MyFord Touch two thumbs down. Ford was hammered in the latest 2012 J.D. Power Initial Quality study mostly because of drivers' disdain for MyFord Touch. For tumbled from seventh place in the 2011 study to a 23rd place in the 2012 study.
A representative for Ford reached out to Consumer Reports following the publication of the article with the following statement:
We listen closely and value all feedback on our vehicles - whether it's from customers or third parties. That feedback is used to continuously improve our products and we're seeing results from that commitment. According to a survey of MyFord and MyLincoln Touch owners conducted earlier this year, those who installed the recent software upgrade report a 25 percentage point increase in satisfaction. Also, 71 percent of owners with the new upgrade say they would recommend MyFord or MyLincoln Touch to others.
Ford has issued software updates to address some complaints of MyFord Touch, but they don't address the underlying problem with replacing traditional buttons and knobs that can be easily sought out by feel with an outstretched hand versus a touch screen that requires constant eye contact.

Source: Consumer Reports

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RE: leave it to Ford
By Brandon Hill on 8/23/2012 1:27:19 PM , Rating: 3
That's because they're smart enough to know that putting a touch screen in everything doesn't always result in a net gain. It works in an iPad because we are solely focused on the screen and can direct 100% of our attention to it. It doesn't work in a car for obvious reasons.

Try typing on an iPad blindfolded and see what I mean. Now try typing on a standard QWERTY keyboard blindfolded.

The same principal applies in the car.

RE: leave it to Ford
By Reclaimer77 on 8/23/2012 1:35:10 PM , Rating: 2
That's not the argument. What the hell? How can you still not get this.

It's not about what I, you, or Consumer Report's thinks. It's between Ford and their customers.

My favorite Michael Jordon quote was when a reporter asked him once that out of all the shots he made, which ones he thought were the greatest. Jordan replied something to the effect that was it all the shots he's MISSED that made him great.

Meaning we learn as much from failures as our successes. I think Ford is doing important work with MyTouch in pushing the boundaries of in-car technology. What they learn that works, and what doesn't work, could lead to significant advancements in automotive tech. Why be so dead set against that?

You come off like Luddite with these blanket "RAAWR TOUCH SCREEN ALWAYS BAD" viewpoints.

RE: leave it to Ford
By RufusM on 8/23/2012 4:53:33 PM , Rating: 2
No, a touch screen is not always bad and physical controls are not always good. There's middle ground on both sides. It generally depends on the use case.

For navigation and such a touch screen is preferable because buttons can be displayed in context and adjusted.

For heating/cooling controls physical buttons are better because to need to be able to run them with gloves or mittens on. That's why the knobs are bigger and more widely spaced. How ya gonna warm up your vehicle when its -30F and it's all touchscreen with slow LCD response?

RE: leave it to Ford
By tng on 8/23/2012 4:07:50 PM , Rating: 2
Try typing on an iPad blindfolded and see what I mean.
IPad? I know a guy that can text from his IPhone in his pocket at 30 words per minute. He learned this "skill" while sitting in long meetings.

I have no issues with the Alpine touch screen system that I installed in my Civic, at first it was a pain, but now I have used it enough that I don't have to look to skip songs or change volume. The only reason I look at it now is to check the time.

That being said my wife has an Accord with a touch screen and the heater controls are a pain to get to. Some things should remain as physical controls.

RE: leave it to Ford
By Keeir on 8/23/2012 7:57:17 PM , Rating: 2
Try typing on an iPad blindfolded and see what I mean. Now try typing on a standard QWERTY keyboard blindfolded.

ktfied hyst tnqg wktnj tnis mdxxagd

(tried just this with this message)

True, with a touchscreen it would be even worse, but we're not talking writing a novel with the in-car touch screen. We are talking about pressing volume up versus volume down. Or AM/FM.

There is a balance about touchscreen versus physical controls. I have more problem with the placement of the touchscreen in most myFord cars than the actual concept of the system. But then I always need to look at my heated seat control, my temperature control, my fan control, my radio control for anything but volume/AM/FM. There are -very- few buttons in my car I don't examine each time I use them.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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