By on March 19, 2016

2013 Buick Verano Turbo, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

If you like your dashboard to function like a 1970s stereo, then you’re an outlier in a society that increasingly desires a Minority Report-style driving experience, according to Automotive News.

A five-year forecast by industry analyst IHS Automotive predicts a steep increase in manufacturer demand for high-tech vehicle controls, meaning more touch screens, gesture controls and voice-recognition technology.

This also means the buttons, switches and knobs that were once the hallmark of moderns vehicles (“Look at all those buttons – you must be rich!”) could soon be rarer than a Kia K900.

Over the next half-decade, IHS predicts that sales of voice recognition technology will rise by 12 percent, while touch screens and gesture controls will rise by 13 and 35 percent, respectively. Steering wheel switches will see an 11 percent bump in sales, while good old-fashioned button controls will rise just two percent.

“Consumer electronics are a leading indicator for [cockpit controls] in the car,” explained IHS analyst Mark Boyadjis.

For automotive purists, this trend is tantamount to heresy. After all, buttons, knobs and switches lend an intimate, tactile element to the driving experience. Who doesn’t like feeling like they’re in the cockpit of a 1950s Stratofortress circling a fail-safe point in the High Arctic?

Many people, apparently.

Offering “the latest thing” is the norm for the auto industry, which once offered dashboard record players and drink sets, so there’s a tradition at work here.

Having an ultra-modern cockpit can be great advertising, but automakers risk turning off buyers if their state-of-the-art infotainment technology becomes known for being difficult/annoying to use.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

122 Comments on “The Future is Coming, So Say Goodbye to Your Knobs...”


  • avatar
    dal20402

    I HATE voice recognition. I don’t want to talk to my car, or my PC, or my phone. The machines are a break from having to talk to people. I also don’t want to make gestures, which are hard to interpret. I want to tell my car what to do through discrete, unmistakable actions like pushing buttons, twiddling knobs, or even manipulating touch controls.

    • 0 avatar
      insideinsights

      Exactly.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      Voice recognition in cars is fantastic simply because it allows you to make a change with virtually no loss of concentration on your driving. But that’s only if it works right and works the first time, which is something that the latest cars are improving immensely.

      One might argue that a well-placed switch or knob is less distracting than voice recognition, but with the vast array of controls and settings on modern vehicles, it’s just impossible for all of them to become second nature and a reflex while driving.

      One of my big beefs with voice recognition in cars is when you have to press a button every time you speak. Acura has been that way for a long time and it’s annoying. I’m not sure if the latest Acura vehicles are still that way or not, but my 2015 Jeep and my 2011 Audi just listen for your next command without having to press a button.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        It takes me more concentration to formulate a voice command in a way that a computer can parse it than to find even an obscurely placed button. The computer can’t yet establish the contextual clues to deal with “uh, that thing, yeah, can you turn it off?”

        The only place a voice command is easier while driving is for an action that I really shouldn’t be taking while driving anyway, like dialing a phone or composing a text.

        Some people claim to be able to multitask. I’m not one of them and I’m very skeptical of their self-honesty.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        White Shadow – “virtually no loss of concentration on your driving”

        You have kids?

        A parent can always tell they are up to mischief because it gets quiet.

        Why is that?

        We can only effectively focus on one process or domain at a time.

        Talking is a distraction. It isn’t just texting or “dialing” a number on a cell that increases the risk of MVC. Conversation consumes brain function.

        If one is to make a vehicle safer then the best option is to remove any extra features. Making the existing ones more complex or numerous makes it worse.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        I love voice recognition. I suspect not all are created equal. In mine, it allow me to easily make infotainment and hvac adjustments while maintaining concentration on the road. Some may not work as well.

        I love knobs and buttons too. I hate touch controls.

      • 0 avatar
        bergxu

        Goddamn millennials fucking things up again…

        Buttons/knobs are fine. They don’t require you to pull your eyes off the road to use. Of course, I guess since everyone seems to ignore the don’t text while driving laws, it doesn’t really matter anyways…

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Yes, Honda/Acura VR sucks!! (I’ve not tried the systems in the newer models with the Garmin-based navigation, however.) But the system in the Accord is just as bad in an M/Y 2015 car as it was on the first year of the 7th-Gens of 2003!

        And whoever stated something about not talking to a computer: hear, hear!!! I’ve only used Siri on my iPhone 6s (first smartphone) to see how “she” responds to four-letter words (which got a laugh out of my co-workers), and while I don’t care for “phone trees” to get a real human being on the other end of the line, I absolutely DESPISE the intelligent voice recognition (IVR) systems which do not give you the option to use the keypad, but force you to carry on a conversation with a computer!!

    • 0 avatar
      Zoom

      I’ve never been comfortable with using voice commands when other people are in the car.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Bingo. It’s ridiculous to start randomly talking to your car when others are in the middle of a conversation. And then there are those ‘friends’ who try to screw up your commands as you say them. I heard an early MFT owner describe how it completely locked & died up when it got confused by multiple voices.

    • 0 avatar

      “I HATE voice recognition. I don’t want to talk to my car, or my PC, or my phone. The machines are a break from having to talk to people. I also don’t want to make gestures, which are hard to interpret. I want to tell my car what to do through discrete, unmistakable actions like pushing buttons, twiddling knobs, or even manipulating touch controls.”

      BMW wanted to make a big deal of their gesture controls when I drove the new 7-series.

      It’s cute at first – but you’ll quickly reach for a knob or button.

      Because of the nature of Radio, I doubt ANYTHING will ever replace the simplicity of the “dial” – or a toggle switch.

      GM and FORD tried to replace it with cheapo plasti-touch panels.

      They learned their lesson.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Especially when the interface makes it impossible to do something a dial can do better!

        My 2013 Accord can be made to show a “tuning” interface which looks like a dial, and uses the Navigation controller dial to twist! This works great for AM/FM, but this same interface ISN’T present for XM satellite! Sadly for me, Honda DID improve things during the 9th-Gen pre-MMC model run, as a 2015 Accord with Nav had a much improved interface with a few more features.

        Unfortunately, Honda went backwards in another way, allowing their legal department to mandate that using that dial to scroll through a list, even with a voice prompt at each detent, would be too dangerous, so beginning with the 9th-Gen Accord, you can only scroll through one page of information while the car is moving; to unlock another screenful, you need to issue a voice command in just the right sequence!! Try yelling “Next!” at your car at 75mph with a “bro-dozer” truck on one side of you, and three straight-pipe Harleys in the left lane beside you!! Yup..squat!! (There is actually a device available which will disable the speed-sensor input to the Nav unit, when a switch is flipped, but forget to flip that off, and it could mess things up in other ways!)

    • 0 avatar
      chris724

      I agree 100%. Voice control is a solution in search of a problem.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Voice commands are good for complex activities that would require multiple actions, such as playing a specific title from a large USB. However, for simple activities, like adjusting temperature or volume, it’s pointless.

    • 0 avatar
      VelocityRed3

      This comment X 1000

      • 0 avatar

        My MDX has extensive voice control, but at the end of the day, it is easier to turn a knob to zoom the nav map in or out. Likewise to raise or lower volume. I’ve used all the voice commands once to see if they work, but day to day, it is push button.

        i have the last non-cue Caddy, and the last non i-Drive BMW. I actually like i-drive, as the haptic interface allows you to know what you are controlling by the feel of the knob. You don’t have to take your eyes from the road. They eventually dumbed down i-drive, but the original idea worked quite well after you learned it. The thousand button approach still means your eyes leave the rroad even after you know the system.

        I’ve tried CUE, but only briefly, and yah, they are smoking crack. I want an instant “off” or “mute” for sound.

        Voice recognition varies widely. My MDX will get the phone number right almost all the time, which is good, as it does not like you dialing from the phone itself. My Mk6 VW, likewise but the VW didn’t mind if you dialed from the phone. The Touchscreen dial pad was a nice touch for VW. The Caddy voice recognition works about half the time, but the Windows CE Mobile system is not well integrated with the rest of the ICE. I sense corporate territory and terse discussions among engineers. Whoever put phone functions as a sub menu of the phone command button deserves to design ashtrays for the rest of his career. GM clearly insisted on being primary for the bluetooth and phone functions, so even when the windows part hangs up after a phone call, you can still navigate, just with no screen.

        Luckily, the Caddy bluetooth allows pass through of voice commands and sound from apps, so you can bypass this and use Siri, although you need to trigger it from the phone.

        VR only works if you do it well.

        • 0 avatar
          brn

          I think it depends a lot on what you’re trying to do. For changing volume, the good old knob wins. There are some things knobs and buttons aren’t very good at. If I want to listen to a specific song, my best solution is to use voice command (tell the car to “play songname”).

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            We have found the steering wheel mounted buttons very helpful and better than voice commands.

            My grandson at one time had a little Ford sedan with voice commands and he hated it so much that he preferred an archaic basic Jeep Wrangler over it.

            And he could take the Wrangler places where the little Ford sedan dared not go.

    • 0 avatar

      I hate to touch my car. But I like to talk with my car especially if she is a well mannered lady. Would you like if someone would like to touch you to kick you with his dirty finger instead just talking with you?

  • avatar

    The only thing Kim Jong-Un needs to do is have a nuclear device detonate high up in the stratosphere, and he’ll create the biggest traffic jam in history, because all of this stuff will fry instantaneously.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Voice recognition is nice but I find that occasionally it doesn’t work well. Examples: I’m driving in a rain storm, I got the heater cranked to max, a window is open or I have a cold.

    Another issue is when I happen to forget the voice prompt for a command or the exact name I programmed in for my phone contacts.

    I’d rather have the option for a dial or switch especially for key functions like heater and lighting.

    This sort of technology also guarantees that vehicles will no longer have long lifespans and the restoration of “collectibles” will flush down the toilet.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Until these electronic controls are lightning fast and consistent, they are more of a distraction than a help

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      At least the Honda systems, for all their VR weaknesses, are still pretty responsive. I know the same cannot be said for some of the MyFordTouch and CUE implementations.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Ford and Cadillac got the bright idea to copy smartphone style capacitive touch controls for their dashboards. How’d that work out? Oh yeah, everybody hates them. Ford has already mostly dumped their terrible touch controls for old fashioned buttons. The new Continental has a volume knob, a tuning knob, and a big fat knob for adjusting the fan speed.

    One of the worst aspects of CUE are those god awful touch HVAC and audio controls that barely work on the third try. It also doesn’t help that the big black plastic slabs that make up Cadillac center stacks look cheap as hell.

    Luxury isn’t just about whizbang features, especially now that the latest whizbang features are reaching down into entry level cars faster than ever. You can now get radar cruise in a Civic. Luxury is about tactile *feel*, and there is NO substitute for real metal switchgear.

    • 0 avatar
      chris724

      The ideal control for a driver is one that you can reach for and feel, without taking your eyes off the road. Touchscreen controls are a terrible idea for cars.

      • 0 avatar
        jetcal1

        Chris724,
        This X 1000.
        In our mythical Arctic Strato mission everyone could find and operate their controls blindfolded.
        We don’t need that.

        What is going unsaid is that mechanical parts require assembly which means touch time.
        The automotive industry “expert” really means the auto industry is following trends to reduce labor and assembly time and selling it as a feature.

        I miss being able to adjust HVAC by touch with two sliders and 4 position switch.
        Alas, that went away with rotary hvac.

      • 0 avatar

        This was i-Drive 1.0

      • 0 avatar

        I wish the same was true for smartphone. How many people were hurt or died not looking forward while walking?

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      On a trip this month I rented a Cadillac XTS. I was reminded about how much I hate the CUE system. Slow response, annoying controls, not a single rotary knob to be found, all compounded by the fact that the majority of my steering wheel time was at night. I mostly relied on the steering wheel controls, but even those were dissapeointng.

      I do agree on the aesthetics of the center stack. It just does not match the image of the car they are trying to push and looks cheap in addition to being frustrating to use.

  • avatar
    insideinsights

    I would call this bs. Seems to me that IHS is trying to create a trend. I’d rather have buttons then unreliable software. Once again, the best explanation in the end might be what’s driving the automotive industry: profit. Usability does not seem to be a consideration.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Ford is putting the buttons & knobs back into their vehicles, so I don’t believe the ‘trend.’

      However, people see the shiny new systems and they buy them. They regret it later, but by then the car company has their profit. Only when people stop buying these systems will they go away.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Isn’t one of the top service complaints with new cars the inability of the owners to figure out how to make the radio and HVAC work?

    I guess they’re waiting for the troglodytes to die off, then the iphone generation will feel right at home. :p

    • 0 avatar

      We’ve all seen commercials where the selling point is wifi connected. All this really is is a basic cell phone board working as a hotspot, and you still have to subscribe to data.

      It also comes in a car !

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      It’s the young folks filing those complaints, not the tech-averse fogies. The young’uns are the ones who use the tech and find that it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to (or doesn’t do it well). Luddites never even turn it on.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Aesthetically, I love the toggle switches that MINI uses.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Buttons and knobs aren’t going away. Ford tried that but it was an abject failure. They’ve brought buttons and knobs back to everything.

  • avatar
    Fred

    Buttons or touch screen doesn’t matter, the problem is there are just too many adjustents to made in a car today. It wasn’t today until I finally adjusted the clock in my car because I’m stupid to remember how to do it. Maybe that’s why I like my old Elan, nothing to adjust but the throttle.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Curmudgeon that I am, I stuck with a flip phone for about five years after they were no longer cool. If there were such a thing as a non garbage grade flip phone anymore I’d probably still have one. Anyhow, I never had any difficulty whatsoever using them while driving and so wrote off the media furor over distracted driving as nutless liberals being nutless because that’s what they do.

    Then I bought a Galaxy and discovered that with five times as much crap on the screen and no tactile buttons I couldn’t even dial the thing while paying any attention to the road.

    Touch screens have no place in a car in motion.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The last dozen years of my career were spent working for a company that makes industrial voice recognition systems, commonly used in warehouse distribution centers. These are “voice-dependent” systems, meaning the device recognizes your voice best (like 99.6%) after you’ve trained it once. They have a limited vocabulary, like 200 words.

    Our products were designed for very rugged, environments, working between -20F to +120F, with a long service life considering the application. They could be dropped on concrete, operate with high ambient noise, and survive condensation and chemical exposure. Entire teams of software, electrical, and mechanical engineers were required to develop these products and support them over the years.

    The voice recognition products in vehicles are not the same quality as what I worked on. The mfrs aren’t staking their reputations on their function, and they’re certainly not building hundreds of dollars’ worth of hardware to make them work properly. It’s no surprise people complain about them.

    My concern about infotainment systems is that their rapid evolution will bring down used car values as they age and degrade. I mean, who wouldn’t yearn for this Pontiac 6000 dashboard?

    http://smg.photobucket.com/user/bmm_MN/media/Pontiac/STE_dashboard.jpg.html

  • avatar
    Joss

    Say Goodbye To Your Knobs?

    They probably thought that back in the twenties. All the knobs on a Dusey turbo dash. But 50 years later were different technologies knobs – like a stereo cassette. So in 50 years time maybe they’ll be other knobs for something else.

    Sincerely a knob.

  • avatar

    I have a Samsung TV that has “touch” controls for the power/volume/channel etc. It is miserable to use, because you can’t find the buttons, or distinguish between one button or another. Regular buttons allow you to function in the dark, because you can use your tactile senses. Not so with touch buttons; if it’s dark, you’re totally lost. Just because something CAN be done with a touch screen, doesn’t mean it should! I love touch screen controls, but they aren’t the right control for EVERY situation.

    Try adjusting your radio using a touchscreen without taking your eyes off the road. We have a sense of touch for a reason…

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Every touch button I’ve used–audio/video equipment, remote controls, phones, cars–have been inferior to regular buttons. I can’t help but think that designers know that, but they make what people find ‘cool’ and so pay more for.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Aside from crippling the car when the touch screen inevitably craps out, what happens once all the electronics are so outdated they no longer work with our other devices? Seems like planned obsolescence to me.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      I think that you nailed with your last sentence. Planned obsolescence.

      Knobs (usually) don’t break or degrade. I believe the collective brain trust of the automobile manufacturing community has figured out that they need to find a way to shorten the ownership cycle.

      Cars are too reliable today. No one wants to make the drivetrain less reliable, so why not find a way to make the interior infotainment system to be the cause.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Perhaps instead of a “Sport” model, aimed at young hipsters, manufacturers will produce an “old fart” model aimed at the majority of those who actually purchase their vehicles.
    I want button and dials, not a giant ipad with touch controls.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    Give me liberty and knobs or give me death. Gonna buy an old fashioned car and put it away till mine dies.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    Touch screens are not advanced enough. They have no tactile feedback and require visual attention. I am waiting for ONE button, touch, gesture or word that will initiate the heads up display. This display will then respond to virtual touch within my field of view.. ONE more virtual touch to make it disappear.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      I agree. simplification is definitely needed in all these systems. On my GMC Intelilink system, the radio presets don’t seem to stay not he screen (or I haven’t figured out how to make them) so I have to hit the little up arrow button, hit the preset I want (possibly swiping to get to the second and third batch of presets) then hit exit to get back to the main radio screen. The steering wheel controls are no better.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Lou, agree but I doubt most of today’s and trucks will make it that long with their complex electronics and safety devices. It will be much harder and more expensive to find replacement parts and the manufacturers will not furnish replacement parts for as long a period as they have in the past. There are always salvage yards but how well will used electronics especially computers last exposed to the elements in an outdoor salvage yard. The simplicity of the older vehicles make them more appealing to collectors.

    Most of the things manufactured today are meant to last a certain number of years and that’s all. I have a 52 year old Japanese transistor radio that still works. Up until recently I had a portable digital travel alarm that was over 30 years old which I finally threw out because the digital numbers were starting to fade to where you could hardly read them.

    Its even harder to get tires for older vehicles with 13 and 14 inch wheels becoming harder to get tires for. The bigger rim with less side walls have become the standard. I have even had problems finding replacement tires for my 2008 Isuzu I-370 (Colorado/Canyon twin) with only about 2 different tires available and which I had to order.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Jeff S, you can buy custom-drilled wheels at bbwheelsonline and others. You tell them what size wheel you want and they drill it to match the bolt-pattern on your vehicle. Pretty common to see low riders and drift-cars with upsized custom wheels in my area.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff S

        HD–Yes that is true but as long as I can get some type of tires I will keep the original wheels. I like the looks of the aluminum wheels on my S-10. Most of today’s and future vehicles will be harder to get parts for with the computers and touch screens. There will be some survivors but it will be more challenging to get parts. There are pros and cons about all the touch screens and electronics but they will be the norm in the near future because they will get less expensive and it is more cost effective for the manufacturers to standardize them. Just as electric windows, electric locks, air conditioning, power steering, and power brakes have become standard. Vehicles are much safer today than they have been in the past and they are also more expensive to fix. I would rather walk away from a bad accident than not so that makes the choice easier for me.

        Some of the others have mentioned the obsolescence of the electronic devices and that is a factor. I still have my I- Phone 5 but I will be using it for at least a few more years until it either quits or I am forced to upgrade. There might be more leasing of vehicles in the future.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          ” I like the looks of the aluminum wheels on my S-10.”

          Speaking of which….

          My best friend has a ’93 S-10 ExtCab Tahoe 4.3 with the Camaro Styled Steel Wheels and has been looking for replacement end-caps (or wheel-hub caps) with the Chevy emblem to replace the ones that have gone crispy and broke off.

          Got any ideas where to find them? I helped him search online and failed miserably. Zero demand for items like that, it appears

          We both contacted various junk yards across America and Canada and struck out.

          And replacement electronics? Yeah that’s what my best friend had to do as well when his digital display instrument cluster went south.

          He scoured various junk yards, found one in Kansas City, paid $50 for it (plus shipping) and installed it. The odo mileage is wrong but at least he has a cluster there instead of a gaping hole.

          Then he found a place in Canada that completely rebuilds the electronics (like new) for $149 postage paid, no tax, and now he has TWO.

          That may be the way to go for future electronics — keep a spare one on hand for when the original goes south.

          • 0 avatar
            Jeff S

            HDC–Has your friend tried any of the Chevy forums particularly an S-10 forum? They would know where to find parts for older S-10s.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Jeff S, I believe he has. This has been going on for several years now. Not something recent.

            He found ONE used cap with a Silver Bow tie at a local junk yard. He bought it but it looks out of place because his caps have the Gold Bowtie.

            The problem of course, is the plastic “clamp fingers” inside the cap. The plastic gets brittle and the cap either falls off, or the fingers break when you pull off the cap to change a flat tire.

            Right now he drives it with two gold caps on one side of the vehicle and one silver cap, and a wheel without a cap, on the other side.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Had a Radio Shack clock-radio which served me well as a wake-up piece for fifteen years, then sat on my desk at work for another twenty, until my wrist brace hit the display this past fall and busted the plastic bezel. I could probably replace that piece and clean the volume rheostat contacts to put it back into use if I really wanted! Made in USA, the thing even had a toll-free number on the bottom IF YOU NEEDED TO CALL FOR SERVICE!!!

      When was the last time you saw THAT on a piece of small consumer electronics??!! My first alarm clock, an LED Timex, was finally tossed recently after my parents couldn’t reset it for the DST time change last week — they couldn’t remember when I had bought it (with my own money — 6 or 7 YOA, maybe).

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        WOW! I know what you mean but they don’t make them like that any more. Everything today is throwaway.

        In our master bedroom we still use a Panasonic Dual-Voltage clock radio we bought in Germany in 1976. It’s digital but uses green gas tubes.

        In my computer/server room I use a Dual-Voltage Technics multi-function clock to control the lights, that was also bought around the same time (1976). It’s also digital but uses orange gas tubes. Good stuff!

        When the Sony clock radio on top of our kitchen fridge finally gave up the ghost a few years back, we replaced it with a Bose Wave III radio. Nice sound!

        I would not put too much stock in stuff sold today, made in America or not. None of it is designed to last.

        It’s all disposable and not worth fixing. Costs more to fix than to replace.

        • 0 avatar
          Jeff S

          HDC–I had that problem with a Mercury Lynx I had years ago the plastic center caps got brittle and fell off. I put a new set of caps on and new Michelin tires and then the heads went. I have a couple of Sony Dream machine clocks that are 20 years old and still going. A few years ago I bought a new Dream Machine and it is already starting to die. The older Sonys were made in Japan and the newer one was made in China. Most of today’s products are made not to last regardless of where they are made. I still have my 52 year old Plata transitor radio which even has a real leather case. I don’t listen to AM radio much anymore but it still works and that is very good for an off brand radio made in Japan in 1964. I also had an old Texas Instrument SR-10 calculator that I final threw away after 30 years–it still worked. Even my Royal stereo receiver with an analog face and real dials and buttons is still going strong after 33 years. I got my $119 out of it long ago.

          Today’s vehicles will run a long time but the bodies and electronics will go long before the engines and drive trains. Electronics are much harder to diagnose and can be very costly making most of today’s vehicles not worth fixing when they get older. The electronics can nickle and dime you to death

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            So true!

            I agree with your evaluation of today’s vehicles but I think I’m done buying, for the remainder of my life.

            I’ve now got what I want and the 2015 Sequoia and the 2016 Tundra should last me the remainder of my driving life, at least until the Great State of New Mexico takes away my drivers license due to age and infirmity.

            For grins I still have that amazing little 1989 Camry V6 that continues to astound and amaze by its longevity and fun-factor.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Auto makers are just hellbent on simplifying auto assembly with the least knobs, cables, linkages, lock cylinders and other moving parts, especially when those mechanical parts and systems can and do fail under warranty.

    The more microchip’d and buss plug-n-play controls and electronic system they can force, the more efficient the automakers become at pushing cars out of the factory, and building-in just about total obsolescence, especially when auto makers stop their flow of replacement processors, control modules, etc.

    Duh, big surprise. And it’s the simple, knobs all over and pre “nannies” cars that will become the next coveted classics.

    • 0 avatar
      mazdaman007

      Spot on Mike about the next classics. I’m now taking better care of the body of my older cars and not trading them in for this very reason. Worth more to me to keep than trade. Not that I’m necessarily thinking my cars will become classics but I think more of the pure driving enjoyment in a simpler car with no touchscreen or nannies bleating in your ear.

      Wife acceptance factor to this method is not high though :) Why do we need all these cars ? Well, why do you need all those shoes you never wear !

  • avatar
    PentastarPride

    I just hugged my 2013 Chrysler 200–with its simple, traditional stereo and HVAC controls–a little more tighter.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    Automotive News invited the wrong people to their focus group. I don’t know anybody that likes what is being forced on us, its all worse than traditional controls. Manufacturers are responding to perceived desire to change but its marketing driven, not customer focused.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Alternatively, your social circle and the circle in the study do not intersect at any point. That’s usually what happens with 319 million people.

  • avatar
    hybridkiller

    Y’all better get used to this trend, because it’s more about cost per unit to manufacture than anything else. Once you have a touch screen and voice command for some functions, adding more functions to control more things is just software. Physical controls – knobs and switches – aren’t free, so eliminating them reduces cost per unit. Software development cost is the same whether for one car or 100,000.

  • avatar
    Garak

    I’m willing to have a touchscreen for all the useless features, but hvac needs proper controls. Having to turn your eyes off the road just to adjust the temperature is dangerous, and in the winter touchscreens generally seem to not work properly. Having to take off your gloves is an added bonus.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    Wow. I have never seen so many people whine and moan about progress. If you all were alive at the turn of the 20th century, I bet you’d be asking for a better horse. Or in the 80s, railing against 4 speed automatics because 3 speeds is more than enough.

    Touchscreens are here to stay. Instead of whining about it, how about suggestions on how to make the technology better? Like touch feedback. It’s only a matter of time before the manufacturers get better at making touchscreens better with better feedback and before you know it, we’ll wonder why we didn’t go to screens sooner.

    I have a 2010 Taurus SHO that I’ve had for the past 6 years. It has a touchscreen NAV/infotainment system. It has some redundant controls, but it also has some controls that aren’t redundant. I’ve never felt like the system was a distraction. I can navigate it just fine with the sound feedback without taking my eyes off the road.

    I have a Volvo XC90 T8. Same deal. Very few redundant controls, as most everything is on the screen. No issues operating it at speed or in traffic.

    Too many of you here are looking backwards when technology is going forward. Screens are cheaper to manufacture and design into an IP and with cars getting more expensive, manufacturers are trying to save wherever they can. Bottom line, get used to screens, even in cheap cars.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      +1
      Not everyone is so afraid of progress that they must clutch at their pearls and retreat back to bed.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Look, I push the edge as far as technology is concerned. Some new tech is good, and some is bad. While touchscreens are good for functions that need infrequent changes, some functions need discreet controls, and some are better performed from your laptop. Something isn’t good just because it’s new or trendy.

      For vehicle configuration functions like auto door lock enable, auto headlight off delay time, and remote climate control temp level, a touchscreen is the way to go. You might not want change those setting for the entire time you own the vehicle.

      For functions that need changing while you drive, like throttle response mapping (ECO Mode), climate control temp increase/decrease, defrost mode, and wipers, traction control on/off, door locks, you need discrete buttons and knobs. Even functions like changing views to zoom onto the tire to curb distance on my right side camera while parallel parking (with an augmented virtual reality line imposed on the image showing distance) with a single button press. You need something you can reach using muscle memory so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road.

      For mapping and navigation, it’s nice to be able to push destinations from desktop or phone to the car before you ever get into it. I love the fact that I can sit in the office or at home, and pick a place to eat, then push it to the car. When I get into the car, I can go into the nav system and select the pushed destination.

      Descrete controls aren’t going away and as others have noted, they are returning to the dash. Vehicle user configuration is getting more complex and a touchscreen is the way to go for that, but the combination of increased governmental attention towards distracted driving and consumer demand will keep buttons and knobs on dashes for some functions.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        I agree with mcs. Complete touch screen or voice with no buttons is the issue. I purchased a GPS and due to its touch features takes a lot of focus upon the device to hit the right part of the screen to activate a feature. Touch activation makes it too easy to hit the wrong feature.
        Voice has advantages and disadvantages. @Zoom made a comment about not feeling comfortable with voice command with others in the vehicle. That expands into who’s voice should the system cue into or to. My kids like to “take over” voice when accessing my phone or music control. It is fine and falls into “no harm done” with unimportant systems but what about tie-ins to more important operations?

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Something like iDrive is infinitely better than a touchscreen – its a knob!

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        My rule is that no menus should be used when driving. You shouldn’t have to perform multiple commands to change HVAC, radio station, etc.

        The problem with the pendulum swinging too far toward touch screens is that the new technology is inferior to the old technology, thus improving it is the same as reverting to the old knobs & buttons.

        Touch screens are good for complex & variable input. Selecting a point on a map just can’t be done with fixed buttons. But most actions needed when driving haven’t changed. The knob & button designs came out of a half century plus of iterative evolution. Considering how Ford has completely redone Sync 3, we know touch controls haven’t had that time to mature.

        That said, some buttons/knobs are dumb. Chevy’s do-everything stalk with cruise, lights, signals, etc., is bad. A lot of aftermarket stereos had terrible ergonomics.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      In this case, the problem with progress is that formerly independent components become interdependent.

      If the knob breaks on your radio, that’s certainly annoying but it only affects your radio. If a screen starts to malfunction, then a lot of issues will arise simultaneously, and the car may either be inoperable or else severely limited. Small issues are transformed into major problems as a matter of design.

      It also means that stuff that didn’t used to be vulnerable to hackers now will be. Given how hackers are, it isn’t ideal to make it easy for them to screw with 4,000 lbs metal devices that travel at over a mile per minute.

      That being said, you are correct about the motivations. These things will make life easier and cheaper for the OEMs.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      If anyone’s afraid it’s Spartan.

      Good points PCH, integrating everything into a touchscreen can pose security risk. And we just saw how easy you can hack a modern car.

  • avatar
    Jasper2

    I can just imagine how my car will respond to a voice command as my bugle mouth passengers are speaking at the top of their lings whilst i am “voice commanding”. Yeah, right.

  • avatar
    John

    There is a reason noone is talking about changing the most important button on a car to gesture or voice control. That button is the brake pedal.

  • avatar
    ixim

    Chevy MyLink system here. Constant glitches – the system forgets what it was doing after hanging up the phone; skips songs at random off the iPod; etc., etc. Actually, the BT phone part is the only reliable function. The cure? A thumb drive update that MAY solve the glitches and takes hours to install IF you have considerable computer chops. Ridiculous! How the engineers ever let this half-baked system out the door is amazing. When you realize that even Apple devices, the best integration of hardware and software anywhere need occasional reboots to run reliably the inevitable increase in truly distracted driving is obvious. I know,the sheer number of functions in even the cheapest new car makes some kind of counterintuitive operation unavoidable. I say, at least keep real knobs and buttons for basic sound and HVAC functions. And keep those separate from the gadgets so that 10+ years down the road, when the electronics have degraded, the car is still usable.

  • avatar
    anomaly149

    Unlikely that every button will disappear. Anyone that remembers MyFordTouch and the capacitive buttons in the pre-facelift MKZ should understand exactly why there is a bit of an upper threshold on what can be put into a non-tactile touchscreen.

    Automakers would disregard that painful lesson at their own peril. People have a REALLY hard time with non-tactile controls when they’re looking at other stuff. Maybe on autonomous cars, but not on “manual” cars.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      In my area, static electricity brought on by the dry environment wreaks havoc on all electronic devices, including those in the cars.

      Most of the time a static electricity spark will just cause a screen to scramble and reboot, but every once in a while it has been known to fry electronics.

      We saw this a couple of times on the NAV/Camera display in our 2012 Grand Cherokee when we zapped it and the display scrambled, screen went black, and then rebooted like when the ignition was first turned on.

      Some of the static zaps watered my eyes when getting in and out of the cars.

  • avatar
    22_RE_Speedwagon

    what happens if you give your new 7-series the finger?

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      Turns on the “Service Required” light. The certified BMW tech will then punch you in the face for being “rude”. KITT…I mean the BMW will then return to normal and the “Service Required” light will disappear.

      Covered by the complimentary maintenance plan of course.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        No medical-expense reimbursement for your broken nose, nor to clean the blood off the seats!! Oh, right..the “Beemer-Tex” seats clean up with a damp rag!

  • avatar
    macmcmacmac

    They can have my knob when they pull it from my cold, dead hand.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    You might be too young to know this, Steph–but those antiquated, button-rich B-52 Stratofortresses are still in everyday service (though they may have transitioned into the “glass cockpit era).

    The modern automotive touchscreen and voice interfaces are popular in the executive suite and the sales floor, but that complexity is coming back to bite the makers in the butt. Infotainment system ergonomics are usually blamed whenever user-reported defects rise.

    I could complain about the proliferation of dashboard screens on driver distraction grounds. OK, I have. But there’s one neglected factor that makes cars different from jet airplanes and recliner chairs. Cars bounce around on our imperfect roads, and that makes accurate touchscreen gestures much more difficult. Once I place my hand on a physical knob, It’s there. I can feel it, and feel the changes I’m making. Touchscreens don’t offer that tactile feedback. That’s why, when I’m in a car that’s cursed with touchscreen controls, I will mostly avoid them until I’m stopped.

    Stylists love touchscreens because they’re “contemporary.”Manufacturers love them because they’re probably cheap to manufacture and install. But I despise them, and I’m aiming to stay with analog cars as long as I can.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      And the aircraft cockpits are standardized, with easily replaced modules that are meant to take a pounding.

      Unlike the electronics in a car which are built to a price point, where the entire dash has to be ripped apart for repairs, and where one ham-fisted move while doing those repairs will drive the car’s owner crazy with a lifetime of rattles and squeaks.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Normally I try to remain open to modern tech, but this just opens the doors to bad design.

    OH yes, Designers will love it as it reduces visual clutter, bean counters will admire the lower cost, customers will get irritated and drive into buildings trying to find the radio.

    I’m the best touchscreen setup will still have back up buttons for radio and HVAC, just in case the screen goofs up.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I’m going to reitterate my initial response about how confusing it all is. The more options we have to adjust the more confusing it will become. All you button lovers need to think what it would be like if you had 100 buttons to press. There is an Android app that simplifies the phone interface when you drive, Drivemode. That is what the automakers need to start thinking of. Some kind of macro or shortcut to set the car up like we want with one touch.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      >> All you button lovers need to think what it would be like if you had 100 buttons to press

      Mine are clustered in groups, so it’s not bad. I seem to have 52 on the dash and console including 2 joysticks. That’s not including the window and lock controls on the doors and the stalks. That’s with a touch panel. I think my owners manual is 693 pages not counting the “quick” reference guide. I wouldn’t want to give up one bit of functionality or adjustability. You can operate the car without knowing everything, but the extra functions make a big difference once you master the car – including getting better performance by knowing how to get it out of ECO mode.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      My thought to button haters is its a car, it goes vroom vroom and should only do a few other things for you. Anything else is scope creep.

  • avatar
    badreligion702

    The current I-Drive and MMI systems are probably the best infotainment systems around. I love the I-Drive in my F30. Super easy to use, intuitive, and the knobs and buttons are all well placed. I never use the voice control.

    • 0 avatar
      mazdaman007

      Mazda Connect with the Commander is also pretty good. You can adjust everything by feel without looking down at it. Also the buttons surrounding it are big and the home button is slightly higher than the other buttons to give you a tactile reference as to where your finger is located on the pad making it easy to find the button you want. And they put a separate volume knob right beside it.

      And they kept proper round HVAC controls which can also be adjusted by feel. Yay !

  • avatar
    Baldpeak

    There should be some principle of ergonomic design that says something like “the more of your 5 senses that you can use to locate a control the better”. Touch screens don’t respect this principle because you only can only use sight. Maybe you get some kind of haptic feedback when you manipulate the controls, but it doesn’t help you find the control. And if your eyes are on the road, you can’t even use sight. Voice control is even worse because you can’t use any of your senses. You just have to try to guess the right command, and then wait to see how and IF the car responds. If you issue an invalid command, or there’s too much background noise, you will get NO feedback. Gestures are even worse still, because they have the same problem as voice commands, plus you have to take at least one hand off the wheel.

  • avatar
    Wodehouse

    The future should be the across the automotive board adaptation of FCA’s excellent back of the steering wheel buttons. They could add as many sets of those buttons as needed. I love them. Simple, but, brilliant.

    I have yet to experience a gesture/voice recognition/touchscreen system that gets it right each and every time. I still have to take my eyes away from the road to when it’s wrong. Not so with buttons and knobs. I can do it all without looking away from the road. I suppose all this junk appeals to the fist-bumping, begging-the-children-to-behave generation.

  • avatar
    thrashette

    I’m 23, so I’m an “OH MY GOD” millennial. I purposely chose an older used car because it had huge knobs and easy-to-use buttons, no touchscreen, but also had Bluetooth integration, a feature I wanted so I could use nav and music streaming from my phone. I’m old school, I use VHS tapes more than I use Blu Ray, and I refuse to move from Windows 7, get a high-end smartphone, or use a tablet. But still. I feel that using touchscreens to control everything is absolutely stupid. If the longevity of our current smart devices, as well as touchscreen car systems of yore, indicate anything, it means we’ll have big and costly problems down the road. Completely ridiculous. People who don’t want easy, tactile feedback, that they don’t need to take their eyes of the road to use, like knobs and buttons are dumb and lack foresight. The unintuitive touchscreen trend has been here for too long.

  • avatar
    zip89105

    Honda already has some of this junk, and is slowly losing sales. Lincoln used to have it, but buyers and renters went elsewhere when they couldn’t figure out the hodgepodge mess that imitated knobs, so Lincoln smartly went back to knobs.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    The deluge of gizmology over the past decade as a desperate measure to differentiate between hyper-competitive products has set up a major culture shock for those who hang onto cars a goodly while.

    It (among other changes) is so offputting that it may well result for many in keeping their oldie even longer because these egregious doodads were preceded by vast quality improvements in most cars permitting such entrenchment.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    I like the funky capacitive switches and touch screen in my Volt. Thought I would find them annoying but just the opposite. I like that they are easy to keep clean.

  • avatar
    hybridkiller

    “The deluge of gizmology over the past decade as a desperate measure to differentiate between hyper-competitive products has set up a major culture shock for those who hang onto cars a goodly while.

    It (among other changes) is so offputting that it may well result for many in keeping their oldie even longer because these egregious doodads were preceded by vast quality improvements in most cars permitting such entrenchment.”

    I’m a reasonably intelligent person (140-something IQ) and I can’t figure out WTF that even means…
    ?

    • 0 avatar
      multicam

      Took me a second too, but it’s a good point and I can actually relate to it. He’s saying:

      1. All these touchscreen and “infotainment” setups are going to be quite a shock to adjust to for those of us who still drive cars with simple AM/FM/CD head units and maybe cruise control, and HVAC.

      2. This may encourage some people driving such cars to hold onto them even longer, which is possible because of recent quality improvements.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    For calling a contact on my phone or selecting a track from an MP3 list voice is fine. For volume I still prefer a knob with notches. Then again, I am not one that would pay more than $15 for satellite radio or carry a smart phone. We do have a state of the art HTPC though.

    Some things are just easier with a button or knob. Whoever finds the optimal blend would get my money.

  • avatar

    I just bought a 2016 Jetta because it had buttons and the Mazda 3 I drove did not (the touchscreen locked out when the vehicle was moving and you were forced to use a rotary dial for everything from radio to HVAC)

    • 0 avatar
      mazdaman007

      Which year of Mazda 3 ? Even the newer ones with the Mazda Connect touchscreen have separate round HVAC controls, even with automatic climate control.

      There is a whole cottage industry set up modifying Mazda Connect and one of the updates will enable touch screen access when moving. Not saying anyone should do this, just relaying the information :) There are also some other updates which can remove the “nag” message on startup among other things. Of course you can brick your system so this is not for the faint hearted.

      http://mazdacmuhacks.com/

  • avatar
    laserwizard

    More reasons why I will retain my 1997 Ford Escort in perpetuity – its paid for, averages 43 mpgs tank in and tank out, and is simple. It has nice nobs for radio and heater function – they are within reach when I drive and I know their positions after driving this for nearly 20 years without removing my eyes from the road. This is the best $10k I have spent on a vehicle and the repairs still have not added up to $1500 in its life time counting two sets of tires, one set of brakes, and a clutch slave cylinder and a preventive replacement of the water pump).

  • avatar
    Chan

    The only things voice recognition is good for are speed-dialling and entering nav destinations.

    Everything else is more quickly taken care of by knobs and buttons.

  • avatar
    ammom_rouy

    The end of knobs!

    And I just found a terrific knob polisher.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Is that a digital knob polisher?

  • avatar
    RightWheelDrive

    You’d talk to someone first, and then touch and then push buttons as you get more intimate, and there’s a reason for that


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Bark M., United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic

Get No-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners Automotive News in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked