E-Rant: Our Button (and Knob) Free Future

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Have a look at the interior of the future – all swipe, tap and pinch. The 2019 Volvo S60 features a huge 12.3 inch LCD main cluster and a 9 -inch secondary LCD screen that you scroll through (and tap and swipe and pinch) to access/engage almost all of the car’s secondary functions, such as the stereo, seat heaters, “assistance” tech and so on.

Almost all other cars still have physical buttons and knobs – for secondary/redundant back-up, because it’s what people are used to. But get used to this – because it’s not just The Future . . . it’s already here.

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  1. Ive seen Volvos new range – the irony – Volvo finally figures out how to make a brilliant car…before they destroy it all by adding automatic speed limiters!!!

  2. Hey Eric,

    Man, everyday my 2002 Dakota 4WD just gets better in my eyes. I hope to keep it going until they show up to take it from me. Let’s see, V8, 5sp manual, manual doors and windows. Almost completely stripped but with a pretty nice stereo and cruise control (Nunz, I love the cc for highway driving and it doesn’t disengage me with the car. I still pay attention to the speed and manipulate with the up and down feature). Best of all, it doesn’t bother me at all if I decide to drive (gasp!) unbuckled. Not a single beep or chime, just a small, unobtrusive light on the dashboard.


  3. This article has inspired me to keep my ’60 F100 and make it road worthy again. Six cylinder, 1bbl carb with manual choke, three on the tree, manual drums on all four, generator with electro-mechanical relay. Have upgraded the electrical system from single tail light to two with directional signals. No solid state electronics any where on it. Might compromise and add solid state ignition and replace vacuum wipers (that figuratively and literally suck) with electric.

    Years ago I left it with a tire shop to install 4 new tires. Apparently the “technician” had no familiarity with a hand choke and ruined the battery cranking it trying to light the fire.

    Our modern car is an ’08 Honda fit, last year of the gen 1 Fit, so has only a few few “empty features”: it has is an event data recorder and anti lock brakes. Has 200k miles on it mostly trouble free with the exception of a bad computer at 160k and bad ignition coils at 140k. Wife and I agree don’t want all the complexity and “assists” on the new cars. Will run this one as long as possible. Recently acquired an ’07 Fit with 40k miles as back up/replacement.

    Remember: Progressives break everything they touch.

  4. Nobody, esp. the car companies want to speak of the elephant in the room or the herd of them.

    Knobs and switches are safer. No need to take your eyes off the road. I can understand using the touchscreen for your cellphone but not for much else.

    I spoke to a trucker one day who’d laid his truck on its side at speed on I 20. He was trying to change radio stations and with a reefer full to the top, it didn’t respond well to going off the road and trying to get back.

    I haven’t been in a big rig with rotary controls on the radio/stereo since about 95 or so. I detest the systems they install since they’re dim and often installed in that area right below the rood in the cab. You can’t see shit of the road looking up there and due to no way to adjust the brightness of the readouts it’s like playing pinball in the dark and trying to control 40 tons.

    BTW, that Bud Light truck is typical of alcohol haulers. They don’t pay shit and therefore hire newbies with no experience, the very reason his 4 way flashers weren’t on long before he stopped. They should have been on when he realized there was a stop ahead. It’s not a guarantee since I had mine on when I got run over but for people looking at the road, it’s a boon. When I’m just slowing down and looking for the correct turn, I have mine on since my speed’s been greatly reduced.

    One thing that makes a good car is seats and I applaud them for that. GM made all the look-alike cars back in the 90’s and the cheaper ones had flat, hard seats that were anything but comfortable.
    The wife’s Cutlass being a top of the line model had great leather seats, never a numb butt or anything but comfortable. The arm rests were of the right height as was the console to make you feel like you were in a Captain’s chair, a really comfy way to travel.

    I do like a car that sync’s with the cellphone and that should be set sitting still and not on the road.

    I do have to wonder what the side loads on those pistons show for that engine though. A supercharger and a turbo, too much complexity there. Now turbo’s have variable vanes and even two sets of input vanes so there is no lag.

    This reminds me of a video series I’m following with Gale Banks who is using the new Duramax that’s got almost nothing in common with previous models. It’s quite the thing and he’s turned one 7,000 rpm and gotten 1400 lb ft of torque from it still meeting all smog requirements. If you want to see it it’s under the title Killing a Duramax. He’s taking one step at a time and intends to rethink every change he’s made when one is just shrapnel in the dyno room. If he weren’t in Ca. I’d work for him sweeping floors just to see the things being done.

  5. I hate Volvo. They are going to be limiting their cars to 110 mph next year. No one seems to give a damn about people who want to drive. No one.

  6. Certain features (door chime volume and key fob behavior) should be buried in a touchscreen. Other things like volume and HVAC controls should be physical buttons. I think the current generation of GM cars strikes a good balance between touchscreen and physical controls.

  7. That’s one MAJOR thing I don’t like about Tesla cars-no controls! At least there are no controls in the conventional sense. Everything is accessed through the big touchscreen.

    In Tesla’s defense though, they made their touchscreen SUPER user friendly. When I looked at a Tesla Model S a few years ago, I didn’t have one second’s worth of experience with tablets or smart phones; I had no idea of swiping, pinching, etc. Even so, it took me less than five minutes to figure out the Tesla’s mounted tablet to control the car’s functions. Their UI is second to none. If the rest of the industry is going that way, they need to follow Tesla’s example of how to do a UI RIGHT!

    What I can’t understand is why the car industry is going this way. Why the rush to eliminate conventional controls? Though airplane cockpits have modernized too, they still contain many knobs, switches, and buttons. Why? Because of the tactile feedback these controls give; pilots can figure out what setting a control is without looking at it-much like we used to do in cars. If there’s such a push to safety, why eliminate the old style controls that ARE safer?

    • Marky,

      “Because of the tactile feedback these controls give; pilots can figure out what setting a control is without looking at it”

      I can attest to that.

      But one thing GA owners can’t figure out is keeping the key to the plane separate from the rest of their keys. At least not until they learn from experience.

      I was talking to a gal who lost the use of her car for two days, got hit with a towing bill, and ended up paying the dealership because her keys ruined the ignition switch/sensor.

      “If there’s such a push to safety, why eliminate the old style controls that ARE safer?”

      Unfortunately MarkyMark, you don’t understand who’s safety the push is for.

      It’s not your safety comrade/citizen. You are a threat to the safety of others (primarily those who have chosen to control you). But if you are not safely in control, it is also possible that you could do harm to other mundanes.

      And I have a related question. Is carb heat square, throttle round w/push button or tension lock, and mixture serrated? It’s been a while.

    • Hi Mark,

      Why are the car companies trying to replace physical controls with tablets/swipe and tap? It’s cheaper. Costs less to plug in a single LCD display than to connect all those individual buttons. It also means more money down the road – when the display croaks. The car becomes useless without the interface, which controls almost everything – so you have to buy it and of course, then it won’t be cheap.

  8. LCD instrument clusters belong in an arcade.

    Volvo’s exterior and interior styling is definitely the best in the business right now, in my opinion. Even their crossovers are beautiful.

    Have you tested the Revel system in the new Lincolns?


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