Why is it that automakers sped tons of money making vehicles safer only to outfit those vehicles with technology that makes drivers more dangerous? For example, while driving a 2014 luxury vehicle the other day I found that despite being protected by multiple air bags, comfortable in a plush interior, and soothed by a quality sound system I was oddly stressed. My blood pressure seemed to be rising any time I had to interact with the car’s technology to adjust the heat or change the radio station. The vehicle in question comes complete with a touchscreen featuring Haptic Feedback; that is, it pulses in response to your touch much like an iPhone. That part I liked. It’s the having to interact with a screen at all that got me all a-twitter.
I’m not naming the vehicle in question because it doesn’t matter; It’s as nice a ride as I’ve ever driven. That’s not the point. The point is that even though I appreciate all the high tech equipment in today’s automobiles, I would still rather control the climate and audio system with knobs and dials rather than buttons on a touchscreen. Touchscreens require more attention; Locating the setting you want to adjust requires reading, an activity I love but was taught to avoid behind the wheel unless street signs were involved. Sometimes multiple screens must be scrolled through to get to the right one, and then it’s imperative that the correct part of the screen be touched in order to initiate whatever change is desired. Easy tasks, yes, but tasks that require much more attention than reaching out and turning a knob. Too often driving quality goes down hill when drivers reach for their dash because the eye-hand coordination required to work a touchscreen makes it necessary for the eyes to leave the road. The tweaking of knobs and dials does not.
So, I’m waiting for the day that a luxury automaker offers a retro technology package, one that provides all the latest bells and whistles, safety features, and comfort, with nary a touchscreen in sight. You’ll know that day when it arrives – I’ll be the driver staying within the lines.