Print 68 comment(s) - last by Azethoth.. on Aug 27 at 6:33 PM

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 Azethoth on 8/23/2012 4:05:06 PM , Rating: 2
"Need more info. Do they have issues with the CONCEPT, or it's implementation?"

I cannot speak to Ford's systems but I finally replaced my SUV's sound panel with a It does everything under the sun including satellite and HD radio + iPod navigation, hands free phone with a good mic and gives you a back rub on long drives.

It also has a large touch panel interface. It seemed fantastic in the show room but I have to say this thing is dangerous. Trying to do stuff on the screen like next song or even volume with the tiny physical buttons at the bottom edge of the screen takes multiple seconds with high failure rates of actually touching the right tiny button. This is horrid compared to the physical interface I had before. I could use it by touch alone, eyes on the road at all times (but no iPod so no good music ;-).

I am thinking of hacking in steering wheel controls which should take care of song skipping and volume. Refraining from doing anything else would then solve the safety issue.

Bottom line: a touch panel is total crap as an interface for the driver.

They could improve it a bit by making the important buttons (volume and +/- channel or song) take up 90% of the panel or have large physical buttons for them on the sides. Then you could conceivably hit them without much looking or even by touch.

As for the concept of a panel interface: its ok for the passenger to use. I don't see it ever being any good for the driver (while driving) without some hard core haptic feedback. Voice + steering wheel controls are mandatory and need to be the primary way of using the system. Unless those are adequate for everything you want to do though you are left with 20 or whatever features of which you can only safely use 2.

RE: leave it to Ford
By Reclaimer77 on 8/23/2012 4:10:02 PM , Rating: 2
Bottom line: a touch panel is total crap as an interface for the driver.

No the bottom line is it sounds like the implementation on your Kenwood is very poorly done. There should not be "tiny" buttons etc etc.

Making a blanket statement that touch controls cannot possibly be well done and safe is just that, blanket statements.

RE: leave it to Ford
By Wererat on 8/23/2012 4:27:06 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. A tiny button, if a car even has one, should be only used for things a driver would only *want* to use while stopped.

That's not a fault of the touch screen, but of the designer who decided that it was a good idea to put an important control like 'volume' on a tiny button.

RE: leave it to Ford
By Azethoth on 8/27/2012 6:33:29 PM , Rating: 2
Well it is speculation, but if you read beyond it I speculate that it needs haptic feedback or voice, or usable old school buttons to improve it. Certainly buttons on the steering wheel so you don't even have to reach away.

I stand by my conclusion that an unvarnished touch panel is no good though. Even if you make the buttons on it large enough to hit by touch, errors will still navigate you away forcing a look at it while driving and navigating back.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein

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