Matt Prior: we must stop the rise of annoying screens in cars Car News

Now look here, automakers. I know using lots of buttons is expensive and can look cluttered on the dash, and touchscreens are so much neater and cheaper. And I know touchscreens are much more suited to over-the-air updates than buttons, and they’re so versatile in providing access to so many different features, and they’re very easy to customize.

But maybe we haven’t told you enough, although we all feel like we all have it: can you honestly please stop? We ask too much of these screens. It’s entertaining. It is – and I don’t use that word lightly – dangerous.

Recently I drove the Citroën C5 X and I like the car. It’s comfortable, spacious and good value for money. One of its engineers said that the touchscreen layout is based on a principle similar to that of a smartphone. I also like smartphones. Mine is very easy to use. Certainly no more difficult than a bunch of static buttons or a control wheel – while I’m sitting on my couch, but not while I’m driving.

It’s illegal to use a smartphone, for very good reasons, while I’m doing 70 mph. Because at that time, I should mostly look at something else. Turning knobs or pushing buttons are things I can do without taking my eyes off the road for too long. A normal button or control wheel or dial allows me to do this. A touchscreen no.

I can’t make out the C5 X, by the way; this is just my most recent example. In fact, with a customizable screen, big buttons and separate controls for the climate control, it’s not bad by most standards.

The current worst protagonist is probably Volkswagen, especially since it placed the heating controls right where you’d choose to rest your hand to use the hellish screen – and doesn’t backlight them at night. But Mercedes-Benz is pretty poor too.

They’re both sometimes paragons of ergonomic excellence, then, making for maddening interiors. There are others. Tesla, which may have started it all, Volvo, Ford… Basically, just about everyone.

One exception is BMW, which uses a very large touchscreen but also retains its iDrive rotary controller, which makes it possible to highlight and click on screen items at a glance. As it should be.

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This notice was published: 2022-03-31 23:01:23

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