By on July 20, 2016

2013 Ford Fiesta SYNC basic, Image: Ford

“I hate this thing,” my significant other exclaimed as she tried for the upteenth time to switch from line to USB input in our 2015 Ford Fiesta.

I was in the driver’s seat and she in the front passenger seat as she extended her hand across the cabin to depress the voice recognition button on the steering wheel. This, in her mind, is the easiest way to change the audio input source on the basic version of Ford SYNC, the much-derided infotainment system from the Blue Oval.

And she’s absolutely right. It is the easiest way to do what should be a simple function in the Fiesta. Hit the VR button, say “USB Input,” and SYNC switches from the default line input to USB. (For whatever reason, the system doesn’t remembers that we use USB input every single time.)

This method of switching audio input is also the most dangerous way to perform this function as a passenger, and I’m about to tell you why.

Ford, in an effort to achieve improved IQS scores and other goals, thoroughly revamped the touchscreen-based version of SYNC, but this basic version of SYNC — which features a monochromatic screen atop the dash and a confusing set of nested menus — still exists in our 2015 Fiesta.

If I were to bar my lovely girlfriend from reaching across the cabin to hit the VR button on the steering wheel, this is the confusing set of actions she would need to perform to make her iPhone work in the car:

  • Hit the “Media” button on the dash.
  • Hit the “Menu” button on the dash.
  • Using the arrow buttons on the dash, scroll down to the menu item that opens another menu for audio input sources.
  • Hit the “OK” button on the dash.
  • Using the arrow buttons on the dash, select the input source.
  • Hit the “OK” button on the dash.

That’s six very distinct actions that could be solved with a “Media Source” button that you can repeatedly mash to cycle through different audio inputs. Instead, Ford — and Microsoft, by extension — failed to provide the most basic usability for this admittedly basic system. Not only that, but the easiest way for the passenger to bypass this menu-driven servitude is to reach across the cabin — between the driver and a live airbag — just so said passenger can listen to The Weeknd on Apple Music.

Just think about that for a moment. My girlfriend could be reaching across a live airbag as I, being distracted by this, could drive into the back of a car at a stop light. Her arm then becomes an airbag-driven projectile aimed straight at my face.

But, as you can probably deduce from the title of this rare editorial from yours truly, Ford isn’t the only culprit.

This week, I’m driving the brand-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica. For all intents and purposes, it’s a brilliant minivan. From the driver’s seat, I can have a conversation with someone in the third row without raising my voice so long as I’m not listening to Pantera or some other accident-inducing ’90s metal cranked up to 11. (Full disclosure: “11” isn’t that loud in the Pacifica. The volume goes all the way up to 30. Take that, Spinal Tap! Double full disclosure: Pantera has been playing every time I’ve been in a car accident.)

Yet, during a two-hour drive from my mother’s shoreside abode to my hometown habitation, I found my back perspiring against the Pacifica’s fine brown leather, so I went searching for the ventilated seat button — a button that simply does not exist. Instead, the Pacifica forced me through the Uconnect climate menu then into the seat climate settings to activate the little fan or whatever it is under my rump. The whole process is madness, especially when you consider the driving force behind this is some beancounter trying to remove $3 out of the total cost of producing what’s essentially a $50,000 pram.

Sometimes the decisions made by designers and engineers aren’t curbed by beancounters when they totally should be. A great (or horrible) example of this is Cadillac CUE. The MyLink variant is slow to respond and confusing to use for some people, but the worst part of Cadillac’s infotainment system lives just below the screen: the eardrum bleeding, touch-sensitive volume bar. You slide your finger along a metal bar to increase and decrease the volume as you would a slider on an old-timey radio — except it doesn’t work. You’re destined to inadvertently turn the volume up so high that your entire neighborhood will hear every single one of Ice Cube’s expletives. You can’t tell me that Cadillac’s volume bar is any cheaper to produce than a tried-and-true knob. I wish a beancounter at GM had grown some cojones and killed this from the start.

Volume selectors aren’t the only controls that need a serious rethink, and Cadillac isn’t the only luxury automaker that can’t get them right. Take the Lexus RC350 F Sport that went through our local fleet recently. The creamsicle coupe came equipped with a touchpad with haptic feedback. Every single time you used the touchpad to switch to another menu, the pad vibrates with such intensity that I thought my twitching finger was a sign of an impending seizure or stroke or some other urgent physical condition. On top of that, any finger swipe on the touchpad is represented in cursor movement at 10 times magnitude. Want to select the next menu item? Move your finger exactly 5/16ths of an inch, because moving it any farther will select a menu in a neighboring vehicle in traffic.

Why does it have to be this way? Why can’t infotainment systems simply work?

Some of them do — almost. Subaru Starlink, even in its fanciest form, is fairly straightforward to operate, but it’s not immune to gremlins as this video from our own Bozi Tatarevic will attest.

As you can see, Starlink is slower than post-concussion Eric Lindros, and that’s before you begin to realize the entire system has all the graphical polish of a TI-89.

I could go on and on: you have to adjust the heads-up display in Mazda vehicles through the infotainment system, rear-seat HVAC controls are buried in nested menus in Uconnect similarly to the heated/cooled seat controls, and Volkswagen is introducing normal USB inputs in its vehicles in 2016, some 20 years after USB was invented.

Automakers, it’s time to get your collective shit together. You have a duty to provide safe, easy-to-use products that don’t (effectively) force drivers and passengers to make stupid decisions. You used to build vehicles that repelled the damn Nazis, fer Christ’s sake. (Or, in the case of German and Japanese automakers, you made incredible machines that repelled our own military might.)

Why can’t you figure out the easiest way to play a song on a stereo? It’s not that difficult, folks. Fix it, and fix it now.

[Image: Ford; Video: Bozi Tatarevic]

Mark Stevenson is the managing editor of The Truth About Cars. He is easily swayed into buying vehicles from brands that no longer exist. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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176 Comments on “All Infotainment Systems Suck...”


  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    Are you certain? I have the base sync in a 2015 F-150 and it has a media button on the stack that does just what you describe. Also have you updated the software? There was an update after the October Siri Eyes Free addition that really cleaned up how it interacted with USB storage. Might be an option too because mine always goes back to whatever source I left it on. Seems weird the same system would behave so differently.

    I like the base sync. My wife got a new Hyundai with full on Apple car play/Android Auto but honestly other than the option to throw the map up on the screen when navigating I find the base sync with an iPhone about perfect. Android gives up some capability though (You can’t use the Sync steering wheel button to activate OK Google like you can for Siri…this means you have to use the sync apps for Pandora, Spotify, etc and I am not a fan of those. iPhone integration is much tighter.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      iPhone also allows you to pass nav data via the HFP Bluetooth profile versus A2DP on Android. This is important as the Nav will mute the radio or satellite to give the voice prompts. This lets you control the phone totally via voice and not ever have to use the screen.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      I have a 2014 Fiesta here and can confirm it works like Mark’s 2015. Rather poor.

      • 0 avatar
        Silent Ricochet

        2013 Focus here and can confirm it works just like Marks’s 2015. I use Bluetooth in my car 80% of the time, and yet, every time I get back in the car it’s on “Line In” or whatever.

        Menu, OK, down, down, OK, down, OK.

        That’s how I get it to pair up with my phone again. I can do it in my sleep at this point. I feel like I memorized a cheat code to an N64 game.

        I asked the “SYNC Specialist” at the Ford Dealership one day about this issue and, after a quick demonstration, she simply stated it was normal. All I could think was: “This was by design? Genius.”

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          no, the whole point was that you hit the VR button and say “Bluetooth Audio.”

          unfortunately, Bluetooth is somewhat of a messy standard (or set of standards) so there can sometimes be a delay while paired devices re-connect. sometimes it’s the phone’s fault. I’ve had times where the Pioneer unit in my truck will try and fail several times to re-connect to my phone.

          • 0 avatar
            Silent Ricochet

            Except if you have the windows down and are travelling even moderately fast, the system won’t recognize your voice about 70% of the time and just sit on the “Listening…” screen for a minute straight.

            Bluetooth is a bit of a pain in the ass, I’ll admit. The way it works is why it is annoying to use sometimes, but the point of my post was mainly agreeing with Mark that changing a source takes entirely too many button presses. I’d still rather a quick “Source” button on the dash or wheel instead of hoping some prehistoric voice recognition system can understand what I’m saying.

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            Or, if you are in a diesel Transit van on the freeway and the ambient noise is too loud for Sync to hear anything. Then you drive it into a ditch and light it on fire.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            yeah, that’s the unfortunate shortcoming. Computers can only do so much; VR is more or less waveform recognition, and all it can do is try to translate waveforms into words. if it gets buried in ambient noise, the voice waveform gets difficult/impossible to pick out.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            With the prior gen of MFT, other people talking in the car was able to kill the system (and it stayed dead until the next time the car was stated).

        • 0 avatar
          clkimmel

          I drive a 2013 Fusion Hybrid and I have the same gripe about the line-in versus Bluetooth. Every time I get in I have to change the selection to Bluetooth. I also have a 2009 F-150 with Sync and it works great in my opinion and, it always syncs my phone and starts playing the Bluetooth music.

      • 0 avatar
        larrystew

        Do you not have a Mode button on the steering wheel that cycles through all the options? That’s what I have on my ’13 Focus with MyFord Touch. But looking at the photos of SE models without MyFord touch, it looks as if they have a button like that on the wheel…? Also, if it defaults to the radio or other source, I just use voice command to switch to “Bluetooth Audio.”

        • 0 avatar

          You’re missing the point. Why should a passenger have to hit a button on the steering wheel to select an audio source? That what the mess of SYNC menus effectively forces my girlfriend to do in the Fiesta.

          • 0 avatar
            MrCornfed

            Agreed, why should a passenger have to do anything? Why don’t you, the driver, press it for the passenger?

            Not saying it’s not a bad design, but you’re adding extra complication to an already bad set-up.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            @Mark, What software version are you on? I could have sworn I read about this being addressed back when I was researching how to get OK Google to work with it? Maybe the F-150 got a different system though as it was new for 2015. I know it lost the ability to send turn by turn directions to it.

          • 0 avatar
            larrystew

            I agree with MrCornfed. It would take 5-8 seconds for you to simply cycle through the options with the steering wheel button for your girlfriend. LOL

          • 0 avatar

            @MrCornfed Because I don’t like The Weeknd.

          • 0 avatar

            @Big Al From ‘Murica I’ll definitely look into it the next time the car is in my possession.

          • 0 avatar
            MrCornfed

            @Mark I just YouTube’d him.

            I now understand.

          • 0 avatar
            Flipper35

            Our ’14 Avenger has the same buttons on the stack for the passenger for VR audio and BT phone operations. Granted our was the cheap model with the Pentastar and touring suspension the only options.

  • avatar
    multicam

    And one day, all cars will be seamlessly connected, interacting intelligently with one another in autonomous driving bliss?

    Please!

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I’ve never been able to get the Voice Recognition system in my ’13 Sonic to recognize a single command. Period. Despite reading the manual and speaking slowly and clearly, it’s never done a single thing.

    Contrasted to my old iPhone 4S, that at least understands what I’m saying, and can (usually) understand what I’m trying to accomplish.

    IF manufacturers could get VR to work properly, and IF the VR system could control *every single command* that the infotainment system and vehicle control system is capable of doing, the quality of buttons and/or touchscreens would become moot.

    I don’t understand why carmakers can not achieve the level of VR quality that Apple achieved in 2011. The only reason could be that they’re not really trying because they just don’t care.

    • 0 avatar

      This reminds me of a time in the early 1990s when I was giving a friend directions over the phone to come visit my new apartment 12-15 miles from the town in which we grew up. Think of it as a human VR exercise…

      “North on Concord Pike, straight on High St., Left onto Miner St, I’m at the intersection of Miner and New streets.”

      He astutely and humorously remarked that every one of those street names has a homophone (however antiquated it may be): conquered, hie, minor, gnu.

      In my experience (also 4S) Siri is good, but not great.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I honestly think this is part engineering and part personality (and expectations) of the person using it. I own a BMW, a Porsche, and a 1st gen Honda Pilot. All three with infotainment systems. I think they all work great. No issues, no complications. I do think there is great room for interface and display improvements, especially within a car environment.

    I think the BMW is the best in terms of interface and especially with the center mounted rotary knob that my wife uses even when I’m driving and the fact that the screen is mounted top center of the dash. I love the Porsche system for the physical button and redundant displays and the arrow views located front and center on the main instrument panel.

    However, whenever my wife starts using it, she gets frustrated and uses some of the same comments you stated above. Surprisingly, I fix it within seconds and she refuses to acknowledge that she already has little patience for the systems. Could certainly use improvements, but I generally like them.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      conversely, the infotainment in the *2016* Pilot I drove was garbage. not only was it about as slow to respond as what Bozi shows above, after a few minutes of playing (CD or USB media) it would stop responding to the Next Track/Previous Track controls.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    “For all intents and purposes…”

    Mark — Bonus points for using this correctly. Small grammar pet peeve of mine.

  • avatar

    Luckily I am not an audiophile and the rest of the controls in the car are fairly analog but there are many other actions in Starlink which make that source switch in the video look extremely fast. Also, would like to note that the wind noise in the video is not movement of the vehicle but the air conditioning at full blast trying to clear out the 100 degree NC heat out of the cabin.

    • 0 avatar
      jimble

      My only serious beef about Starlink in my Crosstrek is how long it takes to read my USB thumb drive. When I start the car it starts playing the last song I was listening to right where it left off, but when the song ends it plays the first song I put on the drive instead of the next song on the album. I like “Dark as Days” by Army Navy, but I don’t like it that much.

  • avatar
    TheEndlessEnigma

    I have the new Sync 3 system in my 2016 Fiesta ST, the little 6″ touch screen mounted on the top of the dash board; looks like Ford thoroughly addressed the issues with the Microsoft based Sync systems, Sync 3 is very very good.

    • 0 avatar
      Chocolatedeath

      so what you are saying is that if I buy a used Ford or Lincoln it cant be older than 2016…works for me.

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        Unfortunately, you can’t buy a used car if you want the latest tech to work. My 2012 Sonata needs the special 30 pin iPhone cable that plugs into the USB and Aux plugs in order for you to access your music on your iPhone – which worked great, back when I had an iPhone 4. Now I can only listen through bluetooth audio, which works, but forces me to touch my phone to select music – a distraction. The system also no longer will download my contact list into the car, so I have to make calls on the phone directly – also a distraction.

    • 0 avatar
      srh

      I had sync 2 in my Ford 2014 F-350. It was so bad that it factored into my decision to get rid of that vehicle. The most infuriating thing is that you can’t replace it with something else, because so much of the vehicle is operated through it (e.g. heated/cooled seats).

      Not to mention the speed of the touch screen. Touch the screen, wait a second, and finally (hopefully) the touch is acknowledged. WTF?

      My current Ford Transit has Sync 3. It is a huge improvement but it’s not, in my opinion, very very good. It’s still a pain in the ass to do simple things. Stuff that should take one screen press takes several. Perhaps some of this will be remedied when the promised Android Auto and Apple Carplay are finally supported?

      I am amazed that a multi multi billion dollar industry has not recognized that a good infotainment system could be the single biggest selling point for our iPhone-obsessed culture.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        I’ve used CarPlay and Android auto in my Ranger (Pioneer 2DIN radio) and they ain’t all that. Their biggest upside is free navigation. the downside is that they rely even more on voice commands than the OEM systems.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      It’s not. The Microsoft sync in my 13 mustang was fine. Outdated? Probably, but I had no issues with it. The sync 3 in my 16 is absolute garbage. The navi won’t recognize common destinations, my iPod never finishes “building a database”, the audio cuts out when the backlit display switches, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      For clarification, Sync was the voice control system. MFT was the touch screen interface, and MFT was not developed by microsoft.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        to further clarify:

        Microsoft and Continental AG partnered up to develop an automotive infotainment platform on top of Windows Automotive (Windows CE with some auto-oriented APIs,) then shopped it around. Ford was the first to bite, and adopted it as SYNC. Kia and FIAT followed suit with “UVO” and “Blue & Me,” respectively. the SYNC Gen.1 module is just a black box tucked away in the dash or console somewhere. All of the user interface stuff (like what Mark gripes about) is not actually part of SYNC.

        SYNC Gen 2 was pulled in-house, still on Windows Automotive but with a lot more functionality contained in SYNC. The SYNC module and the touchscreen are assembled as one unit, and the user interface was developed from scratch (e.g. Microsoft had nothing to do with it.) MyFord Touch was a combination of SYNC Gen. 2, a touch-sensitive center stack panel, and the LCDs in the cluster with the 5-way controls.

        SYNC 3 was bid out to a supplier who built it on their own infotainment platform, which happens to be based on QNX. QNX is a very bare-bones OS, basically a kernel, APIs, and hardware drivers. You have to design and write your own user interface and apps.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    The beauty of cheap old car ownership:

    The cheap OEM non-bose stereo in my newly aquired 16 year old Maxima sounds like crap and the volume knob responds about 10% of the time.

    The solution is a $60 amazon Prime JVC headunit (USB drive and aux input) plus a $10 harness and $25 dash kit and say $100 in new 6.5 inch speakers away. I’m willing to bet this $200 setup will sound better than a lot of base OEM sound systems in any number of entry level vehicles. And I will have very straightforward source selection and a regular volume knob to boot.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I’d like aftermarket head units better if there were any under $800 that didn’t look like they were designed by a twelve-year-old on meth. Why are they all so ugly and trashy-looking?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Haha for this particular car, the “Tokyo at night” theme fits perfectly so no complaints here! I was actually initially considering taking a walk on the wild side and getting a generic Chinese no-name brand “Masione” or “Pacoco” stereo, a mere $23 shipped, but thought better of it.

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        Wow, my Kenwood DDX793 (and the DDX771 it replaced) is just a screen with a tiny row of buttons underneath it. What exactly do you want/not want?

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          That’s one of the best ones around from a hardware perspective, although the typeface on the buttons is aggressively ’80s and is bound to clash with just about any interior typeface on a modern car. For the sort of hardware design I’m really complaining about, go a bit further down Kenwood’s line and look at (for example) the DPX502.

          But what the software displays on the screen is so ugly and garish. Why do there have to be all of those loud (and often distractingly animated) background graphics? Why does the clock have to be in a different typeface than anything else? Why can’t I just have menus, in typefaces and colors that don’t clash with everything else in the car?

          Even the OEMs have too much going on on screens, but the aftermarket double-DINs are worse.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            the cleanest user interface I’ve used is the (discontinued) Alpine ICS-X7HD. unfortunately whatever they’re running it on is severely overpowered, because sluggish response is the norm. plus I ran into a few bugs, but unlike Pioneer, Alpine does ZERO end-user technical support so there’s no firmware updates.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Nakamichi still makes nice looking head units. I just bought a BTR350i for my new-to-me old Land Rover Discovery. Simple, easy to use, has BT and will run an iPod or thumbdrive. ~$150. Oh, and it sounds good too.

    • 0 avatar
      cornellier

      If your car has a double DIN receiver and you use Apple products, the Pioneer Appradio 4 is a good, and not too spendy option, especially now that iOS 10 is exposing Siri to third party developers. On the other hand there are plenty of good (though tacky, as noted) basic head units for under 120$.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      Yep, yep, so much agreement with gtemnykh and kvndoom. The $119 Kenwood head unit I put in my old Miata (never put an expensive sound system in a ragtop) has exactly what Mark asks for: a “Media Source” button that you can repeatedly mash to cycle through different audio inputs. It even emits a different tone for each source, so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road.

      Also, get off my lawn.

  • avatar
    TTCat

    “All Infotainment Systems Suck” – why Yes, yes they do – and are yet another example of the old axiom that “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”.

    The “Infotainment System” in my 05 TT works brilliantly – it’s called a radio, with buttons and a 6 CD changer – the HVAC and heated seats are all a snap to use via “real buttons” without taking my eyes off the road – hell, the cruise control doesn’t even have a light to tell you it’s ON – I guess at the time Audi figured you’d know whether or not it was engaged by what the car was doing.

    I would actually pay extra money these days for the option to get a more “primitive” specification of a car – and I am no Luddite, I make my living as a web programmer, but all this mobile tech for the most part degrades my “automotive experience” – YMMV

    • 0 avatar
      chris8017

      This. I can get into pretty much any older vehicle (including my 2011 Mazda6) and instantly know how to change the radio, air conditioning, fan speed…heck, even change the radio presets. I recently took a ride in my brother’s new Ford Explorer and felt completely lost….and I’m a 28yr old young guy with an iPhone.

      The hideous layout of the home screen (which looks like a palm pilot for the mid 90s) and the overall usability of the touch screen they put in this $45k truck gives me anxiety just thinking about it.

      I’ve ridden along with drivers of a few of these new cars with touchscreens and they all seem to be aggravated by it more than helped.

      • 0 avatar
        TrstnBrtt89

        You’ve almost hit the nail on the head, with the exception of my 2004 Volvo Cross Country. 3 Different settings for Air circulation?! The weird hieroglyphic person diagram for setting which vents go on with the climate control? A rotary knob for music source AND saved radio stations… Don’t even get me started on how there’s only one button for locking and unlocking the car. Every button on this car literally looks like the instructions for putting together IKEA furniture.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    I actually have to give Fiat credit here. It’s very easy to cycle through inputs on my (non Nav non uconnect) 500. It’s a single din radio, and at the bottom are a series of buttons – “media” “tuner” “a-b-c”, the presets, and “audio”. Hitting “media” will cycle between USB and aux input (no BT streaming on the 2013 but I imagine it would fall under here). Hitting “tuner” cycles through AM, FM, and Satellite radio. A-B-C are your three sets of presets and the presets are after. “Audio” lets you adjust your mix and sound distribution. Pretty straightforward. I had found Fords iffy on recognizing the USB connection, so I relied either on BT audio or straight aux in. Previous experience rentals said that Toyota actually has a pretty easy to use system. Then again, I liked the original sync touch screen interface and found it extremely intuitive.

  • avatar

    Ah… those days that you could slot in a cd radio, regardless the brand, because every car used to have a rectangular space with everything prewired…

  • avatar
    markf

    Concur. Want an exercise in frustration, try to add a Bluetooth phone on my 2011 Sienna. No infotainment system but it is all voce driven you it makes you say “confirm” after every idiotic voice command. Every 3 days or so the phone/audio player just disappears. My wife wants a new 4runner but has already stated if the Bluetooth connectivity is like the Sienna she will not buy one.

    Of course the $90 unit I put in y other (13y/o) car takes about 40 secs to add a phone/audio player and I have only needed to add it once….

    These Infotainment systems are almost as useless as push button start….

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    I never thought I’d be the guy moaning about the good old days ,but count me in the club.

    One awesome advantage of used ’00 era cars; the Big Computer did computer stuff like navigation. PERIOD.

    There was a basic computer that did climate control, but it wasn’t buried under piles of submenus. You picked a button combination for the auto climate control, and that was that.

    Stereo? Separate controls for that too. Back in “The Day” you could even option a top end car to omit the offending computer. Not so today id imagine.

    Nowadays , I guess we should be lucky the power windows and locks aren’t tied into the infotainment stack.

    Back in the 2000s Mercedes and BMW were rightly pilloried for putting essential functions like radio settings into the in car system. Like many bad ideas , it took flight and now your basic stripper Uhaul truck has a 1gig RAM entertainment system requiring a tech training class to figure out.

    The punchline’s coming in the next decade when these high speed low drag in car software systems fail from wear and tear. Just about every 00’s climate control screen has a dead pixel or three. A buddies BMW pre-iDrive Nav system has an internally cracked LCD screen, so only half the screen is visible.

    On those cars you can still use them without needing those computers, and indeed the driving experience IMO is improved.
    On a modern equivalent? Haha. Future used car shoppers better bring a diagnostic computer.

    Try changing the volume or music when your CUE screen fails. How much would it cost to replace a factory vehicle computer system if/when it errors out after warranty?

    • 0 avatar
      John

      Exactly – how long a lifespan does your average laptop have? Smart phone? That’s gonna be the new car lifespan – body corrosion and motor wear have been conquered to where the average car on US roads is over 10 years old – new cars are gonna fail when the CAN bus develops multiple intermittent faults (will always work when you are trying to diagnose the problem), and the displays fail. We’re going to go back to the days when a five year old car was a hooptie.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        A decent laptop, up to ten years in running condition. Average? They seem to break somehow under two years. “Smart” phone? A decent one could probably do five years of physical use assuming it wasn’t designed to be landfill fodder in twelve months or less. Average? Under two because they break.

        “We’re going to go back to the days when a five year old car was a hooptie.”

        I’m tempted to make a political comment, but this speaks to the socio-economic straits we have been put into these days. Given the real economic situation, the need for vehicle equity is at an all time high. But of course, we get the reverse.

        • 0 avatar
          LS1Fan

          A careful note: consumer electronics aren’t usually exposed to the environmental extremes cars are routinely.

          Anyone wanna bet on that CUE system (and equivalents) working the same after five harsh winters?

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            “A careful note: consumer electronics aren’t usually exposed to the environmental extremes cars are routinely.”

            100% correct. Depending on manufacturer, interior electronic modules are to *operate* correctly from -30 to -40°C up to +75 or +85°C.

            in contrast, I left my iPad in my truck for half an hour when the outside temp was about 15°F (-9°C) and it refused to boot up, giving me a “High Temperature” (LOL) warning.

            automotive durability requirements will turn any piece of consumer electronics into non-functional garbage.

  • avatar
    Alfisti

    Developers are just hopeless at designing software, the project manager needs to be brutal and firm to get them to pull their damned heads in and not get too complicated.

    They drive me insane.

    • 0 avatar
      John

      It has a name: “featuritis” – the desire to add EVERY possible feature, regardless of who will be the end-user.

    • 0 avatar
      tnk479

      One of the oddest omissions in the 2015 BMW iDrive system: there is no way to select shuffle on an external devices music library. Weird right? I connect my iPhone 6s as an external device with Bluetooth. You cannot shuffle the whole library and you also cannot shuffle within a selected artist or album. First world problems, as they say.

      • 0 avatar
        darex

        Try using SIRI to do it, saying “shuffle all songs”, either by holding the voice command button down [until it beeps], or via the phone. Works with my 2014 MINI with iDrive Professional. Should work for you, too.

        It’s kind of an undocumented feature. Tap button for BMW voice commands, but hold it down for ~1 second to activate SIRI.

        Note: I always connect via USB, but I believe it works the same via Bluetooth Audio.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I don’t have any big problem with my infotainment system because I either don’t have or don’t use things like heated/cooled seats, USBs, audio streaming, heads up displays, 4G connections, etc. I pretty much only use the radio and backup camera.

    Luddite FTW.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      This!

      Just because distracting doodads are included against my will doesn’t mean I have to ditz with them. Long as I can work HVAC and FM radio I’m good.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    My 2008 LS460 has what I guess would have been considered one of the first of the current-style infotainment systems. It lacks some features (USB input, Bluetooth audio) that seem mandatory today, but it has a nicely thought through combination of buttons and touch screen controls and is very responsive. There are buttons or knobs for almost everything you do frequently, including source selection, volume, auto climate adjustment, and heated/cooled seats. Pairing a phone is unnecessarily difficult but only has to be done if the battery is disconnected for some reason.

    By contrast the Sync3 system in my 2016 C-Max is more capable, but also harder to use. It does (thankfully) retain a volume knob, a “source” button, and physical controls for climate functions — but the “source” button treats all outside media players as one source, and switching between USB and Bluetooth is just as frustrating as you describe. Bluetooth pairing is no easier than the Lexus, and the inability to access core audio functions and the nav map at the same time drives me batty. Sync3 is responsive, but is apparently the first iteration of Sync that is. In toto, I don’t think Sync3 is better than the 2008 Lexus system.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    I figured there couldn’t be an article about infotainment systems without a gratuitous slam about CUE, and there it is. Strangely, though, you slam it for the volume control slider? That works great. You don’t even need to slide it if you don’t want, you can just touch a spot. Plus it has a redundant button control on the steering wheel if you are completely slider-averse. Meanwhile, you describe a hellishly crude mode selection on Sync whereas on CUE it is a simple matter of tapping a button a couple of times.

    All of these systems need some seat time beforehand to familiarize yourself. Only at that point you can determine whether they are truly poorly designed and awful, like Sync, or just not what you are used to.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      I don’t know. I have to agree with Mark. I’ve rented multiple Ford’s and Cadillac’s with SYNC and CUE respectively. Within about 2 minutes of sitting in a Ford rental in the rental car parking lot, I figured it out and found it easy to use and intuitive.

      The CUE I was also able to figure out, but the responsiveness is what drove me crazy. I’m aware that you can touch or slide for volume, but that was when it actually worked. I purposely made efforts to NOT touch the system and instead only the steering wheel controls. I fully acknowledge that I am no Cadillac fan, but I will always try and rent cars I have never driven. The CUE is enough to reinforce me staying away from Cadillac. I really would have thought that they would have made greater improvements in this system over the years. Just a personal opinion.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      A task as rudimentary as changing the volume or media source shouldn’t require seat time to “familiarize ones self”. It’s bad design, period. I am glad you are happy with your Cadillac but that doesn’t mean you have to defend all their terrible design choices.

      • 0 avatar
        RedRocket

        Changing the volume doesn’t require any familiarization. I said that in my original post. Mark doesn’t like it for some reason. But he has an alternative. Got it?

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      I have two cars with CUE. Just takes time to match the haptic feedback for finger release and you’ll be beating it.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      With CUE, it’s the responsiveness that’s the real problem, not the design. A touch slider is not a great control for cars to start with, but becomes utterly useless when you have to wait a second or so for it to respond. The steering wheel control is the only useful volume control in a CUE Cadillac, and it’s not accessible to the passenger.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    and don’t kid yourself into thinking the aftermarket is any better. all of the ones I’ve tried (from the big names) have huge shortcomings. Alpine tends to make it difficult to find things, and has a brake/parking brake lockout guarding even some fairly basic settings.

    Pioneer, on the other hand, puts about twice as much information on the screen as is needed and turns it into a cluttered mess. ‘course, they all use the bare minimum hardware to get the job done, so they make the version of MyFord Touch which launched in 2011 look peppy in comparison.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I agree completely. All I want it to connect my phone for music and calls. Everything else you need in daily driving is just as easy, and in most cases easier to do manually than it is to used a touchscreen interface. Granted, there are options that no manual controls exist for on modern cars, but those are controls that you hopefully don’t need to adjust every time you get in the car.

    An infotainment system has zero value to me when I am shopping for a car as long as I can connect my phone, which is lets face it, a far better infotainment system than anything the automakers have come up with. To simplify matters, automakers should just let Google and Apple develop in car apps that project onto the car’s infotainment screen. Because they would be developed by Google and Apple, they would probably be more intuitive, user friendly and they could be universal.

    That is one of the main problems, The fragmented way in which these are developed. I find that most in car systems are not so bad when you learn how to use them, but having to learn something totally different every time you step into another vehicle drives people mad.

  • avatar

    I’m so glad my ’08 Civic (stick) has no infotainment system.

    shared on FB

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    This is why I’m tempted to just mount a 10 inch LTE tablet in my dash and call it a day.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I have been seriously contemplating this. Only problem is security and the wild temperature swings that will pretty much destroy said tablet in short order. For a little more $$$ you can get a 7″ in dash with screen mirroring that will basically turn your radio into your phone through a USB connection.

      That said someone really needs to make a headunit with a pop-out tablet style screen, and crucially, Mirrorlink or Apple Carplay/Google Auto. Pyle made a unit with a 10″ detatchable screen, but no way to connect to a phone besides BT.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Lines of code are cheaper than physical buttons (and blanks and the like)

    They will have to take my old school 09 Civic from my cold dead hands.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Actually, the simpler system in my 2010 MKS works fine.
    The back up camera disappears lotta times….and this is bothersome when you are in the middle of backing up, but otherwise it must have been a simple, easy to use system.

    Plus there is that nagging nav that just stalls…right when you need it. Sooo many times I am passing by what I could swear was my exit, only to glance down and see the map frozen 10 miles back!

    However, this might have been the result of my messing with the DVD player so as to play my movies while driving empty hwys…

    Cue the negatives here about distraction driving

  • avatar
    dougjp

    Buttons and dials are the ONLY way :) Whatever focus group started this insane has-to-act-like-a-smartphone or tablet where it takes 3 steps to do what used to take one, should be finally recognized for what it is.

  • avatar
    427Cobra

    A dash full of buttons… everyone complains… all touch screen/no buttons… everyone complains. You can’t please everyone. I remember all the carping when MyFordTouch came out… and I never quite understood it. I have it in my 2013 Edge Limited, and, while a tad under-processored, have always found it extremely easy to use. I have Uconnect in my Ram crew cab, & it seems pretty good as well. Journalists always have a brief amount of time with a vehicle, so I understand that unfamiliarity is an issue. I’m still getting used to Uconnect, so it seems kinda clunky & awkward to me at this point. But yes… technology overload has hit me. My Edge Limited had every bell & whistle available. Over time, I found most of it to be more of an annoyance than an assistance. So… when I went shopping for my Ram, I specifically tried to avoid as much of the technology as possible… a tall order. I still ended up with Uconnect & a backup camera. My requirements for a vehicle were that it be comfortable, with air conditioning & a good stereo. These days, I keep most of my music on a USB. MyFordTouch always remembers where I was at when I shut the vehicle off.

  • avatar

    Just do what I do…play the radio.

  • avatar
    DevilsRotary86

    I have a 2016 Ford Mustang EB Premium, and my wife has a 2016 Honda Fit EX-L Navi. Both have proven to be reasonably adequate, but each have their own quirks.

    The Honda’s works well enough, but like the Subaru is dreadfully slow to respond. If we want to set the car to use her phone for voice and my phone for music, that is a bit of a chore. You have to go to audio, settings, Bluetooth, then select the music source (may be different from phone source). If you were to go to the main screen, settings, Bluetooth, you find yourself in a similar but slightly different Bluetooth screen that doesn’t let you change the Bluetooth music source, but does allow you to change the Bluetooth phone source. It does display which phone has the music source, making you think that you could change the music source from this menu; but you can’t.

    One point in the Honda system’s favor is that navigation system is creepily accurate. When you are coming to a turn it always shows you a drawing of the intersection or offramp. The drawing is always accurate, even including green signs that you would expect to see with the correct text as well as the correct lane configuration.

    The big-screen SYNC system in my Ford Mustang is a veritable super computer compared to the Honda system. It responds well to inputs with a good but not great response time. With the big screen SYNC, to change audio source, you simply tap audio from the home screen, then tap source, then tap the source you want. Then it’s done; no further “OK” needed. Then I like to tap the home screen again since I like seeing the map thumbnail and the audio track/artist info at the same time. It also remembers the last utilized audio source each time I start the car.

    The one fault that I have with the SYNC system is the opposite of my wife’s Honda. The maps aren’t really inaccurate, but they aren’t perfect. It does the same trick where it displays a drawing of the next intersection or off ramp. However, the drawing is only a vague representation of what you would expect to see. Sometimes it’s accurate such as on major Interstates. Other times, such as on US-175 from Dallas to Mabank (where my parents have a lake house), the lane configurations are all wrong. No, US-175 does not have 3 lanes at any point. It also shows you the current speed limit for the road you are on; except that’s also wrong as much as it’s right. I am driving on I-635 and SYNC is trying to tell me that the speed limit is 60 or 65mph and I can see a physical sign staring me in the face that says “70”. Same on US-75 and the aforementioned US-175. Again, the accuracy seems to improve once you get to a major Interstate.

    The SYNC system has also taken to dropping my phone’s bluetooth as an audio source at random. However, I am using a 3 year old Nokia Windows Phone and that has been known to be temperamental in the past. I should thank my lucky stars that SYNC can actually use Pandora over Bluetooth when using a Windows Phone.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The elephant in the room is the simple fact these stupid infotainment systems are the carriage roofs, opera lamps, fender skirts, and Continental wheels of this decade.

    “Infotainment” is so brougham.

  • avatar
    kwong

    This makes me feel really old. I’ve got two cars with OEM cassette players (they also have CD changers), but I prefer the non-complex media units and I wish there were options to forego these options. Half the time, I prefer to listen to my engine and turbo whoosh than listen to the radio or CD. We currently have a 2001 VW Golf TDI GLS and a 2007 Lexus Rx400h. The latter has a complex integrated infotainment unit that does a little too much and would probably be expensive to replace because it controls the radio/sound processing, HVAC, Nav, maintenance reminders, fuel economy/energy chart, etc.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Too much integration of electronics means if one thing goes, they all go. My first experience with that was the 2006 TSX. It had a total POS radio, but the HVAC was integrated into it. The only way to get a better radio was to get another car.

    I spend close to 10 hours a week inside my car (sometimes more). At the very least I want to be able to enjoy listening to tunes. The radio has become as big a part of my buying decisions as the color or transmission.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    THANK YOU.

    I haven’t even read the story yet, but just based on the headline, THANK YOU.

    I have yet to use an Infotainment system in an automobile that made me go, “yes, by golly they’ve got it right.

    It seems, paradoxically, that the ones that have a descent visual interface, have clunky controls, have terrible latency, or are just plain unstable.

    FCA seems to be the closest to having it right of any auto maker. (well haven’t driven a Jag, Rover, or Volvo lately so will gladly be collected)

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    That’s not how you spell cojones!

  • avatar
    Quentin

    No such issues with the current 4Runner. My 2016 is easy to change between sources. Press the physical audio button (if you aren’t already on the audio screen that is… mine is there 90% of the time), press source, and it shows all phones that have been connected to the unit. Press the phone you want to use to connect both phone and audio or select them individually if you want the phone signal from say your phone and the audio from your wife’s phone. The initial connection is also very easy compared to my 2010 4Runner that had the voice commands requiring you to confirm everything.

    My wife’s 2017 MINI has a surprisingly good interface, too. It can have both phones available to receive a call and prioritizes one or the other based on the key fob used to start the car. It also shows both phones available for Bluetooth audio in the media source section. The only major issue that I have with that unit is losing the steering wheel prev/next track buttons randomly at times.

    edit: this was supposed to be a response to the gentleman above who had a wife considering a 4Runner. TTAC comment system at it again.

    • 0 avatar

      “No such issues with the current 4Runner.”

      But Toyota infotainment systems look like hot garbage.

      • 0 avatar
        markf

        I am at the point of “if it works I don’t car what it looks like”

      • 0 avatar
        Trucky McTruckface

        “But Toyota infotainment systems look like hot garbage”

        Every Japanese infotainment system looks like hot garbage. At least Toyota, Nissan and Subaru spent ~5 minutes on the graphic design, which means they resemble a Pioneer unit from 6-7 years ago. Honda’s systems, especially the ones with the pointless second screen, look like something a high school kid slapped together in Visual Basic – 15 years ago.

        It continues to amaze me how the Japanese, starting in the late ’60s/early ’70s, turned the auto industry, the motorcycle industry and the consumer electronics industry on their collective heads and dominated those industries for over three decades through innovation and a commitment to quality, yet in the last 10-15 years its like they completely stopped giving a crap.

        • 0 avatar

          I’ve had similar conversations with people in the industry, specially with those at Japanese automakers. I get the feeling that these designs look good in the eyes of Japanese designers. Maybe they have different experiences as children that form a different basis for “good” design.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            “Maybe they have different experiences as children…”

            Memorable interactions with ATMs?

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            I think they’re stuck in the mindset of “information density.” which is totally incompatible with something using a touch screen as an interface.

    • 0 avatar
      markf

      Nice to hear they got rid of that frustratingly idiotic voice command with the say “press the talk switch and say confirm” idiocy….

      She has not test driven one but she made her comment a few days ago when, once again the system “lost” both phones/media players……

      Noe, if hey would just drop those idiotic push button starters……..

  • avatar

    As Paul Elio explained it to me, it’s not just a $3 switch to control your heated and cooled seats. There needs to be a connector to the wiring harness, which has to go in every car whether or not heated/cooled seats are installed, with related costs. Elio says that it’s going to cost them about $300 in “infrastructure” per vehicle just to be able to accept options.

    As for audio controls, my ’15 Honda Fit has three different ways to adjust the volume of the audio system, but no knob. I end up using the switches on the steering wheel, not the touchpad controls. Fortunately, there is an easily accessible power switch for audio that works just fine as a mute.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Did you get a new Fit, since your old one was toast?

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      that’s also why most cars sold here don’t use amber rear turn signals. it’s not required by law, and adding them is more than just changing the color of plastic. You have to run additional circuits (more copper) with additional connectors, and your multi-function switch gets more complicated and expensive.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I see this go through trends between amber and red. ’80s and ’90s were amber for foreign cars, ’00s and ’10s are mostly red.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          with margins as slim as they are in this industry, it’d simply be foolish to spend money on that if it’s not legally mandated.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Two examples – of two cars designed for the US market, currently with amber blinkers – the ES350 and the Avalon.

            Legacy has amber.
            So does the Jetta.

            I’m not sure it’s a cost consideration currently, but one of style.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        No the reason behind the separate turn signals in the first place was to make the turn signal switch way way cheaper and easier to make.

        With stand alone signals you have 3 wires, one power in from the flasher and the L and R out. The switch simply connects the power in to the selected side. Need to have a 3rd brake light no problem just add another splice so that the brake circuit splits into 3 instead of 2.

        With the combined stop turn you need 6 wires, power in from flasher, power in from brake switch, LF, RF, LR, and RR out. Now if you turn on the signal what has to happen is disconnect that side from the brake feed from the rear output and then connect the front and rear output to the input from the flasher. Throw a 3rd brake light into the mix and you’ve got to have another circuit that gets power before the TS switch.

        Which is why once the 3rd brake light was thrown into the mix that there is no significant savings on the wiring.

        With combined S/T you have 3 circuits, L S/T, R S/T and center S.

        With separate S/T you have 3 circuits, L T, R T and all S.

        Of course that is in the past for many cars that now have a CAN bus system where the switching of the lights on and off are done by the rear lighting module and a TS switch that simply sends a signal over the bus to tell the rear lighting module what it is expected to do. One thing I noticed on my wife’s vehicle that was so equipped is that the 3rd brake light and the ones in the tail lights don’t come on at the exact same time. The 3rd brake light lags the others so I’ve seen situations where she tapped the brakes for a fraction of a second and the ones in the tail lights illuminated while the 3rd brake light didn’t. Other times you can see the millisecond delay between the ones in the tail lights and the 3rd brake light. Pay attention the next time you are following a late model car in stop and go traffic and you may be able to see it in action.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s true. This reason is why Infiniti didn’t move the seat controls from the door in the QX30. Door-mounted seat controls are a Mercedes thing, so they’re already baked into the design of the A-Class platform. It would have been ~$100,000 in project cost to move those controls to another area. That wasn’t a cost Infiniti was willing to eat considering it returns zero benefit.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Haha. That makes me wonder how much it cost to Saab-ify the Impreza and Envoy.

        • 0 avatar

          The Saabification of the Vectra basically killed that company.

          GM: “Hey Saab, make this Vectra look like a Saab and you can sell it.”

          Saab: “OK.”

          Saab spends over a billion on converting the Vectra into the 9-3.

          GM: “What in the fuck did you do?”

          Saab: “We make Saab. Is good, ja?”

          GM: “You’re so fired.”

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            It’s very hard to believe GM didn’t have any checks and balance system on Saab. Or even some sort of progress report on the accounting and R&D side.

            “Eh, let us know when you’re done!”

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      No the connector and wiring do not have to go into every car. Yes the trend has long been to have a universal harness that will accept all possible options but there are still a lot of cars out there where there are different harnesses depending on the options on the vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        “No the connector and wiring do not have to go into every car.”

        no, they don’t have to, but it’s a trade-off between volume and complexity. If you’re dealing with small volumes (or high margins) you might make the case for leaving some “give away” circuits in. If you’re dealing in high volumes, it might make more sense to have two harnesses and save the cost of unused circuits on vehicles w/o the features.

  • avatar
    AK

    2015 focus st with the base sync system

    Works flawlessly. Have a 128gig USB drive in the USB #2 slot and also use my phone via Bluetooth for podcasts.

    Hit the media button and you can immediately pick which you want to use and the car always remembers what you were using last.

    And the voice commands work well too.

    That said, I’ve driven older versions of this same sync and it has not been nearly as intuitive as it is currently.

  • avatar
    MLS

    While I admit it was incredibly cheap of Chrysler to omit physical buttons for heated/cooled front seats, rear sunshade (when there is a already physical button for it in the back seat), and mirror dimming, at least these features are not difficult to access in Uconnect.

    You touch “Controls,” which is always pinned to the bottom of the screen, and the soft keys are right there. There are even shortcuts on the splash screen that appears when the vehicle is first started.

    While physical buttons would be preferable, there are far worse touchscreen implementations out there.

    My only real complaint about Uconnect is the requirement that users install a clunky app on their smartphones to interface with Pandora and other streaming services. Somehow GM and others have figured out how to integrate Pandora without requiring an intermediate app.

  • avatar
    jeanbaptiste

    This is why i went with VW. With the GTI they still have their HVAC and other features as dials and buttons. The touch screen is all for the audio.

  • avatar
    barkdog

    VW GTI has a great system. I also own a 2016 MDX and that thing is a POS.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I specifically wanted my Acura with the base model. On physical button to switch from bluetooth, to usb, to whatever. Works perfectly fine all the time. If I ever decide to update to Android Auto I also get to keep my hvac display because it’s not integrated into a infotainment product. Also the tech package was $3500 and all that I liked was the back up camera.

  • avatar
    ElAntonius

    I have a 13 Focus and a 13 Mustang…the Focus is so many leagues better than the Boss it isn’t even funny.

    The Focus has the full up Sync2 MyFordTouch system, and although it is janky in some respects, it generally at least tries to link up with whatever mode it was in when you used it last…so if it was on BT audio, it will return to that, and generally the touchscreen makes it OK to get to things quickly, though with more taps than I’d like generally.

    Despite the bad rap that MFT gets, I find I like it well enough. It’s not perfect but it has some nice features and is generally usable enough.

    The Mustang, OTOH, is painful. There simply is no shortcut, as described in the article. The only way to get to BT audio is to use the voice controls, and it’s janky. Plus it won’t tell you any info about the current song on BT audio. And if I plug a USB stick into the car to play MP3s off of, the whole audio stack crashes.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      despite being the same model year, your Mustang has the older Xanavi NGN system with SYNC gen. 1 “bolted in” to it. Mustang stayed with the older CGEA 1.1 architecture until the 2015 so the newer versions of SYNC couldn’t work with it.

      but it shouldn’t be *that* hard to switch to BT. Doesn’t the “SOURCE” control above the artist/title lines work for you?

      i.ytimg.com/vi/0iyno2rJbCc/maxresdefault.jpg

      have you done any SYNC software updates? it absolutely should not be barfing just because you plugged in a USB stick.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    My wife’s 2013 Tiguan came with a USB jack, so VW isn’t quite so far behind. But so what– the system’s speakers are so substandard that I can hardly to bear listening to music in the car. My old Quantum Syncro had a better system, and it was easy to use. These audio and ergonomic errors, starting with a dim, dusty and distracting video screen in the dash in the first place, have made me take the old car pledge for a lifetime. Screw those touchscreens– If I wanted that, I’d duct-tape my iPad to the dash!

  • avatar
    bunkie

    “Instead, Ford — and Microsoft, by extension — failed to provide the most basic usability… ”

    I’ve been a Microsoft user since 1981. The *one* constant in that experience is that the user interface/API/class library/methodology/naming convention of almost everything they produce is changing with every release. They are the poster children for capriciously discarding the painfully-acquired knowledge of their customers.

    By the time you really learn how to use any Microsoft product, it has been “improved” by hiding or relocating the $&$#*% menu for whatever.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      you guys are really, really over-estimating how much of this has to do with Microsoft.

      • 0 avatar
        TTCat

        Indeed – every software vendor changes things up “capriciously” in order to provide some faux basis for driving the customer into the “upgrade cycle” – add to that useless features creep, and the seemingly endless drive for products to become some sort of all encompassing “information dashboard” for a particular task and presto, you have bloatware and pissed off customers…

        …lived through it more than a few times in my software career.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          thank you for a bunch of words which have nothing to do with what I said.

          • 0 avatar
            TTCat

            Could be because the reply wasn’t meant for you – but I suppose you have never hit the wrong “Reply” by mistake – sheesh…

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Late to this party, but…

          …Micro$oft Office “Ribbon,” anyone??!!

          And Honda’s “Voice Recognition” is the very definition of “crap!!!” (I ask for “Trip Computer,” and get the climate-control on full heat! Gaahh!)

          Don’t know if the newer Garmin-based units are better, but I’m not holding my breath!

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    The *only* thing I actually dislike about Sensus in my Volvo is that the “pause” button for music is really “mute and pause” – and if you hit next/prev it starts playing again, silently.

    Without removing the mute.

    Because *obviously* that’s what everyone wants, not “pause”.

  • avatar
    slance66

    I think it’s time they realized two truths.

    1. People can’t be bothered to learn dozens of precise voice commands. If you can’t create an AI smart enough to figure out what we mean, drop the voice controls.

    2. Don’t give me a touch screen and then disable it. Either leave it live or drop it and give me buttons and knobs to easily navigate through it. Half of these problems are due to manufacturers expecting people to use the easier touch screen approach, and making the non touch screen method difficult. I’ve used the touch screen in my Mazda maybe 3 times in a year. I’m moving long before the stupid warning screen goes off, I’ll never sit there and input info while stopped.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      The worst is the phone screen which lets me “click” a contact in the favorites list, but WON’T let me select a phone book contact while underway! Not to twist the dial, just select it to call! I’ve flat-spotted my tires, fully-ABSing to a dead stop, in order to push a fvcking button!!!!!!!

      (No other traffic was behind me during these times, or I would have been punted into roughly geosynchronous orbit, I’m sure! Who says an Accord can’t break gravitational pull??!! ;-) )

  • avatar
    Fred

    I should also mention this article I read recently

    http://www.lastwordonnothing.com/2014/08/18/ixnay-on-the-ipod-in-praise-of-crap-technology/

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    Add “And Satnav systems too”.

  • avatar
    calhounje

    When entering and starting my strippo 2012 Honda Fit it requires two button presses on the ipod to resume playing my podcast where I left off. If I do nothing when I get in the car, the radio does nothing.
    My 2016 Ford Fiesta ST requires 4 button presses on the ipod to re-start the bluetooth, and 4 presses on different screens on the dash, and then 2 more on the ipod to re-start the podcast where I left off. AND, if I forget to turn the infotainment system off EVERY time I get out of the car OR I don’t re-start the bluetooth within 30 seconds of re-starting the car, the Ford system will automatically start playing an FM radio station at 4 times the volume level that it was set to previously. So that’s 11 synchronized button presses that I have to perform like a trained monkey or my ears will be blown out by a random radio station. This is maddening beyond belief. I want to hug and kiss the guys who designed the superb drive-train on this fun little car and do UNSPEAKABLY bad things to the guys who designed the touch screen.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    So Mark, I am really hoping your recent seat time in the Pacifica was to eventually give us a review?

  • avatar
    bikephil

    I have My Ford Touch in my 2013 Fusion. Love it. And I NEVER use bluetooth.

  • avatar
    SpeedyMcGoo

    Yes Mazda makes you adjust the HUD through the screen but how often do you adjust this? I adjusted it once when I got the car and haven’t touched it since. I think Mazda has it all right when it comes to infotainment. The controls are right at your fingertips and are easy to memorize and once you know where things are on the screen you can do all everyday operations while barely even having to look at the screen. I NEVER touch the touch screen. I don’t understand why so many manufacturers insist on touch screen interfaces in vehicles. It is not a good thing to have to look at a screen to see where you have to touch it while driving on the highway. The knob in the center console is a much better approach. The other thing Mazda does right is ALL the HVAC controls are physical buttons/knobs. There are absolutely no HVAC controls on the screen. This is a good thing. The screen placement is also good. I know people complain about the “tablet” looking screens but the reality is that the higher screen placement makes it less distracting and personally I don’t know what people problem is with this type of setup. Looks good to me.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    Amen brother! Three years after I bought the car, Ford has finally released enough software updates that my car’s “Sync with MyFord” (aka small non-touch color screen) system mostly works, most of the time. Before that, I wanted to put my fist through it on a daily basis. The menus are so unintuitive and inconsistent that I too have come to rely on voice commands…not that those work all the time either.

    Yes, why can’t Ford let you set a default aux input? How fricking hard can it be to let you program it to default to USB or Bluetooth Audio, instead of the line-in mini-stereo jack? The last time I used one of those, I was in high school, trying to plug my buddy’s Discman into his Mazda GLC so we could experience the hot new trend of digital sound over his 3.5″ factory speakers.

  • avatar
    TOTitan

    I have a 2016 Golf Sportwagen tsi with the new for 16 MIB II infotainment system. I think it is the best one on the market. My wife uses Apple Carplay with her I6 and I use Android Auto with my S5. They both work perfectly for showing maps, using Pandora, text messages on the screen, voice commands….everything really. No complaints here.

    • 0 avatar
      KevinC

      ’16 Golf R here, and I agree wholeheartedly – MIB 2 is a REALLY nice system. The original MIB 1 was a turd. We also have a ’15 Golf TDI with the original version. Smaller, lower-res touchscreen, woefully underpowered with sluggish performance to match, and missing a few key features. But they knocked it out of the park with Gen 2. Much better, slightly larger (6.5″) screen, higher res, very visible, even in daylight while wearing sunglasses. Super-rseponsive now with a CPU upgrade. Does CarPlay well (though I hate plugging in my phone every time I get into the car), I use an SD card for my musi, exported from iTunes. Album art, playlists, etc., all work flawlessly. And the “Fender” upgraded system is plenty decent.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Ford is terrible. Gm is better but not by much.

    uConnect is lightyears better than anything domestic. The uConnect in my Grand Cherokee has been flawless.

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    Huh, I have Sync in my 2015 Fiesta (granted, it’s an ST) and I have absolutely NO trouble. Although I can easily understand why simple functions are difficult for the passenger or someone who does not regularly drive the car since it appears to be a driver-centric system. But I disagree that ALL infotainment systems suck.

  • avatar
    Disaster

    Not sure what is more amazing, how poor infotainment systems are, or how much they cost. Most of them aren’t up to the level of a $200 cell phone and cost 10 times as much. A $80 GPS morphs into a $1500 option with less capability when you go from a standalone unit to one integrated into your car.

  • avatar
    MWolf

    Out of all those buttons,why not a simple set? “Bluetooth Audio”, “Sirius”, “USB”, and “AUX”. So much easier. Just one more, “AM/FM”. There. 5 buttons. Just 5, each with a clear purpose that brings ease of use to a reasonable level. Of course, these selections could still be made via Voice Command, when it hears you correctly and doesn’t instead call your mother.

    • 0 avatar
      Frylock350

      You can simplify that to Radio and Media buttons. The less buttons the better for eyes-free use.

      • 0 avatar
        MWolf

        That’d be nice, too. But they even messed that up in mine. It’s great, until you get to bluetooth.

        And look at all the buttons it has now. I’d say it would be safer to go directly to what you want than to jump through menus and voice commands. I mean, a single media button is great, but only if when you get to bluetooth, you don’t have to go to a complex menu or screw with the phone anyway.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    I disagree; I’ve yet to find a vehicle’s built-in infotainment to be difficult to use.

    The myLink system in my truck seems to work just fine to me. There’s physical buttons and knobs for all audio functions. Not that it matters; I always use the steering wheel controls. The voice command works; but I just long-press teh button to pass it through to my Nexus which handles it MUCH better. I can scroll through radio sources (AM, FM, XM) by spamming the radio button and media sources (CD, BT audio, aux, USB, etc) as well. Interestingly enough the media button will only cycle active sources. If there is no CD, the CD player isn’t part of the cycle. Sometimes its pokey, but its typically responsive enough that it doesn’t irritate me.

    There is a panacea for this: Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Seeing as how most people use their smartphone to carry their media; this will work just fine.

  • avatar
    rjg

    I mostly agree but I do think BMW has nailed it with idrive (atleast the last few years). It’s perhaps not as instantly intuitive as, say, uconnect but once you learn its easy, fast and safe. Some highlights:
    -physical buttons and knibs for stuff you’d expect like cooled seats and volume knob.
    -nuance sourced vr actually works well but you don’t need to rely on it.
    -shortcut buttons around controller can be used easily by feel
    -very fast with no delays
    -blyetooth works well. It pairs quickly and no one can tell I’m calling from a car
    -includes Google search and traffic for the first few years (Audi and others make you pay a subscription fee.

    The only downside is that when I drive other cars I get frustrated by some of the stupidity mentioned in this article. I also prefer it to CarPlay (which is a pretty idiotic interface)


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