Olds dash

This is the dash of a 1950’s Oldsmobile. You could learn the location of every knob and switch very quickly, and if you notice everything was well in the reach of the driver, directly in front of him or her. As you were driving it wasn’t necessary to take you eyes off the road, you knew the location of the controls, and because they had their own shape and feel, you knew you exactly which one it was. You preset the push buttons on the radio, so you really didn’t need to be distracted, simple reach out and push a button.

Auto touch screen

Mobile phones have been around for a very long time, but weren’t available to the general public on a large scale until fairly recently. To say they were warmly received would be a gross understatement. People cannot function without having their mobile phone within reach 100% of the time. I’m not speaking as someone guilt free here, I love my mobile phone, and it’s always with me. Mobile phones and computers have exposed a serious flaw in human behavior. Human beings have a natural fetish for electronic monitors of all types. It may have something to do with our desire to be entertained starting with the big screen movies, then TV, then computers, now telephones. Whatever it is, when it’s mixed with operating a motor vehicle, it becomes a deadly affliction.

This fascination with electronic screens and it’s deadly consequences when driving, wasn’t just discovered a month ago. Safety experts and the general public have known about this for a very long time now. It isn’t coincidental that pedestrian deaths took a sharp upturn when people started using cell phones while driving. People are getting mowed down on sidewalks, not even crossing the streets.

Car manufacturers always scrambling to have the latest and greatest innovations incorporated in their products, simply ignore these safety statistics and slap a great big touch screen right in the middle of the instrument panel. There is absolutely nothing tactile about a touch screen. It requires you to physically look at it, to make a selection of what function of your automobile you wish to utilize. This means you have to take your eyes off the road long enough to perform this function. No different than you reading a text message on your phone from your friend. So, if you are driving on a cold rainy night and need to switch you heater function to defrosters, that requires you to scroll through the touch screen, that becomes distracted driving in an already dangerous environment.

I drive a mid 2000’s car without a touch screen, however, the manufacturer designed the functionality of the car with a series of individual buttons and switches, none of which are in the least tactile. So, I’m faced with basically the same problem as having a touch screen, I have to physically look at the button array while driving to operate the ventilation system. This also results in distracted driving.

There are so many things that can happen in an extremely short period of time while driving, you really need to devote you complete attention to the road ahead of you. That is why the older cars were designed with simple, tactile controls. You would think that this far downstream from the original automobile that the designers would have safety foremost in their minds. But alas, I think the focus is selling more cars, not making them safer to operate.

It would be unfair of me to ignore the fact that automobiles are so much safer today than in the fifties, there is literally no comparison. The manufacturers have done a marvelous job in this respect. People survive crashes today that fifty years ago would have resulted in certain death. That said, I think they need to do a better job designing the controls. My car doesn’t need to look like the bridge on the Star Ship Enterprise, it just needs be more touch friendly and require less visual attention.



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