I’m slow to embrace technology. When people say this in modern times, it usually means that they only have 274 iPhone apps and they’re still stuck using the iPad 3. But when I say it, I mean that, sitting on my desk as I write this, is an actual bill, being paid with an actual check, in an actual envelope with an actual stamp.
Undoubtedly, many of you are sitting there in awe. At this point, you’ve already decided to share this article with your friends, which probably involves Tweeting it on Spotify or possibly Pinteresting it on Google Plus. But I’m not entirely sure what any of these things are, largely because much of my online correspondence is done through – gasp! – Yahoo Mail.
By now, you’re howling at my stupidity as you simultaneously wonder: What the hell does this have to do with cars? Fortunately, the answer is: a lot.
You see, I recently had three press cars in a row that were equipped with MyFord Touch. For those of you even more behind the times than me, MyFord Touch is an in-car infotainment system that the automotive press is hailing as the actual spawn of Satan. For proof, these are a few excerpts from magazine articles on the subject:
• “MyFord Touch is like cutting your eyeballs with a razor blade, only obviously much worse.” – Motor Trend
• “MyFord Touch is almost as awful as those people who pay bills with checks.” – Popular Mechanics
• “One night, when the Explorer was parked in my driveway, MyFord Touch got out of the car and bit the head off our neighbor’s cat.” – Car & Driver
• “Ladies and gentlemen: we have a new leader.” – Spawn of Satan Monthly
So we all agree MyFord Touch is awful. In fact, I was sort of expecting President Obama to tell Charlie Rose that it’s really MyFord Touch, not the NSA, that’s responsible for all this spying. The press would’ve accepted this verbatim and we could all return to our normal lives, which apparently involve conversing with our friends and the occasional NSA agent.
But here’s the thing: I don’t think MyFord Touch is so bad. Yes, folks: someone whose most-used iPhone app is the calculator finds MyFord Touch to be logical, simple, and responsive. In fact, I’ve now tried MyFord Touch three times, in three different cars, over several weeks, and I’ve discovered that I even like the little sound it makes when you click something.
But as an unemployed writer who subsists on Cheetos, I don’t think Ford is particularly interested in my opinion. And so, after years of angry criticism, they will soon add knobs and buttons back to MyFord Touch, making it easier to use and less distracting. This upsets me, largely because I had just figured out how to use it.
There’s also an entirely different reason it upsets me: Tesla.
Tesla, as you might know, currently uses a screen that is roughly the size of a Bloomberg Terminal, and approximately as complicated. I know this because I am an expert on the Model S, having seen several in traffic.
The Model S’s screen is actually considerably worse than Ford’s, because it incorporates every single vehicle function and also the Internet. Even on the MyFordTouchiest Fords, there were still a few controls on the center stack, and by God the Internet was nowhere to be found. But in the Model S, you can’t change even the radio preset without going to the screen, which is annoying because it means you must minimize the porn you’re watching.
But here’s the interesting part: no one bitches about Tesla’s screen. Actually, it’s even worse than that. Our friends at Consumer Reports, who somehow found the time to stop rolling over the Isuzu Trooper to test MyFord Touch, derided the system as being “too much like a computer,” noting that “it works OK statically, but when you’re driving it diverts too much attention away from the road.” They later went on to say “we wouldn’t recommend dealing with the frustrations of MyFord Touch on a daily basis even to an adversary.”
This is all well and good, and it reeks highly of the sort of folks who pay their bills by mail, so I’m in support. But less than six months later, the very same people called the Tesla Model S – home of the screen that was deemed too large to serve as the jumbotron at American Airlines Arena – the “best car ever.” They gave it a 99 out of 100, noting that its only flaw – a one-pointer – was the center-mounted touchscreen. The center-mounted touchscreen that’s half the size of the one they wouldn’t wish on their adversary when it’s mounted in a Ford.
So my question is: how the hell does Tesla get away with it when Ford so clearly can’t? Are Tesla owners simply better equipped to deal with the rigors of operating such a system? Given that many of them are coming out of BMWs, I find that hard to believe.
No, I think it’s that we expect our futuristic Teslas to come with an enormous screen, while we want our good ol’ Fords with good ol’ American buttons. And to that, I must say: come on, people. Get with the times. Now, I have to go mail my bills and buy a CD.
@DougDeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.