Following the news of Mercedes' gigantic Hyperscreen, a dashboard-width touchscreen, Core77 readers sounded off with unanimous disdain:
- "Am I the only one who thinks that replacing tactile controls with touch screens in cars is one of the worst design trends of all time?" --TJ Ward
- "We never had a car with a screen until recently, a 2020 Kia Sportage. It's super distracting trying to navigate the screens while driving. most of the time I just shut it off in frustration." --Juan Cano
- "You also can't leave your finger on a button and press it several times with a touch-screen like you can a tactile control...even the slightest touch on the screen will "press" the button. I hate the touchscreen controls in many situations." --Zach Wheeler
- "Not to mention the greasy finger paintings that will be left all over the dash." --Anthony Locascio
- One quoted Autocar's take on touchscreens: "Items such as choosing a music track on Spotify took up to 20 seconds. We just don't have any way of understanding the impact of that on safety in the real world." --Ray Jepson
I'm with you; one reason I chose my current car is that it had an actual volume control knob and minimal touchscreen controls. Plus, who wants an entire dashboard that can disappear due to a technical glitch?
Then I got to thinking: What's the opposite of Mercedes' Hyperscreen? Then I saw this footage of a Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux that's making the rounds:
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The footage outside the windshield didn't interest me that much--but the dashboard did. I'll screenshot and lighten it for you, for visibility's sake:
It's pretty bad-ass. Granted there are some screens to display crucial information, but every cabin-operated mechanical function of the car (I'm assuming by the icons, I sure can't read the lettering) has a physical button, and some have attendant red and green lights.
If you look at other rally car interiors, you'll see there's a preference for analog/physical.
Granted you've got a navigator to press some of those buttons, and the layouts could use a little design help (button shapes, sizes, color-coding, etc.), but it's telling that in high-pressure situations where safety and reliability counts, rally drivers aren't going for touchscreens.
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Very good point, and I get kinda embarrassed hearing the quotes from my fellow designer at Mercedes: ""We were pushing for the elimination of hard work because it makes it clean and modern ... It's a completely different thing to operate. As designers we like simplicity." Seriously, what is this? Car design is already way too full of itself, but when this notion of "good design" is becoming a safety hazard, who's there to correct this obviously dangerous path? It's like a tobacco company starting to sell cigarettes without filter, because "we as designers like simplicity." Cars are already dangerous enough as they are, why and how are they allowed to make them more unsafe?
Lots of reasons why a plethora of buttons are better for high-urgency usability - who else besides me prefers the shuttle to the Crew Dragon touchscreens? - but also, most of these examples are highly modularized, so they can add or remove panels or buttons as needed, and if a team is tearing down an entire car also changing the IP is no big deal. For most people and interfaces though having increased flexibility as in a touch screen unlocks future updates in a way difficult with a set of physical buttons.
The Crew Dragon is controlled from Earth or from onboard computer - it isn't piloted using the touchscreens.
There is one physical control - a large red lever which, in case of emergency during lift off, jettisons the crew capsule away from the launch vehicle.
Analog switches also allow the user to take advantage of muscle memory and tactility to find the controls. A switch is always in the same place, no matter what mode the vehicle is in. My 2015 Honda's touch screen stereo is a nightmare of modal complexity.
Actually, all racecars are analog. If it takes you 20 seconds to change an engine map, you will crash and die. You need something that is quick and intuitive and ideally does not require you to take a hand off the wheel (see F1).