But one thing they had in the 1950s were knobs, I mean buttons, dials, and other physical protrusions that one could twist or push to control anything from televisions to radios on car.
I remember this last week when I rented a car in which nearly every button had been replaced with a touchscreen that confused me so much that I almost ran into the street trying to change the radio.
The good news is, in some parts of the car industry, buttons are making a comeback.
The physical switch will report back with new Porsche Cayenne SUVs and Volkswagens. Meanwhile, Hyundai and other button-friendly automakers say they’ll stay away from what critics call “terrible”, “stupid” and “terrible” touchscreens. “.
The less good news is that the forces that have unnecessarily obliterated many buttons are still very much, not least a blind faith in the supremacy of new technology. The question is, why? Why stick with devices that no one asks for and that many drivers absolutely hate, especially if they could be less secure?
One person who knows well is Ian Callum, the award-winning British car designer who served as Jaguar’s chief design officer for 20 years until 2019.
Callum, who has also designed for Ford and Aston Martin, told me last week that the evolution of touchscreens began with satellite screens more than 15 years ago. Tesla amplified this trend by selling cars with only one giant tablet on the dashboard, a move that has attracted many of his peers.
“A lot of marketers think, ‘This is a great thing, this is modern technology and therefore we should follow’.”
Callum admires the simplicity and minimalism of Tesla’s design and is by no means a technophobe. But he spent a lot of time struggling with what he said was “a huge amount of pressure” to put most functions on the touchscreen, including heating, air conditioning, ventilation, and more. wind, etc. “I was against the moment I retired.”
The cost partly explains the pressure he faces. Experts say screen can be much cheaper than a lot of physical buttons. But this isn’t the main motivating factor, says Callum.
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“The real engine is this visible technology that marketers really like,” he says, adding that he is constantly asked to design for larger and larger screens.
His wariness about a touchscreen takeover comes from the understanding that the tactile nature of physical switches is instinctively appealing and that you can use a button with ease without need to take your eyes off the road.
This is the crucial point. It’s one thing if it takes you a while to figure out how to navigate the touchscreen on your washing machine, but another if you’re on a busy highway.
test last year by a Swedish car magazine show why. They revealed that the driver of a 17-year-old Volvo with physical buttons running at 68 mph took just 10 seconds to complete a series of tasks: turn on the radio, set it to a certain station, turn on the defrost, etc
It took 23.5 seconds for the Tesla Model 3 and even longer for the BMW iX and other modern cars that have lost the touch screen button.
The electric MG Marvel R driver took nearly 45 seconds, then the car had traveled 1,372 meters – more than four times the distance of the old Volvo. (All drivers had time to get used to the cars.)
Of course, the touch screen has its place. No smartphone can function without it. But that place doesn’t have to be on top of a block of heavy metal moving at breakneck speed. Ask the US Navy. In 2019, it says it’s coming back materialistic regulation on its destroyers after investigators found a complex touchscreen system contributed to the deadly collision off Singapore.
It is difficult for humans to appreciate novelty, but we can also understand its risks. Social media networks have shown us what innovative AI is now threatening to confirm: new technology is not always helpful or even neutral. It’s not even our friend all the time.