Reader Question: Touchscreens and Saaaaaaaafety?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

John asks: My wife has a Prius. It has a touchscreen. Before touchscreens, you could change the radio volume or station by touch. You could change the temp or fan speed by touch. Now you have take your eyes off the road to make the change. This is safe?

My reply: Not in my opinion!

As you already know, there’s no sense of touch with a touchscreen. I mean, you can touch the screen, of course – but it’s impossible to know what “icon” you’re touching without looking – and even then, it’s hard to touch it without looking and concentrating on what you want to touch because your finger is moving.

All of which means you aren’t concentrating on the road.

This problem is compounded by having to scroll (or swipe through) through multiple menus to locate exactly what you want. New cars have so many features now – many of these just distracting gewgaws (e.g., displays that show you how much power the engine is making as you drive or what the weather is or the stock market’s doing) that driving is taking a back seat to swiping and tapping the touchscreen.

And no, it isn’t very saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafe.

It’s also the reason for the appearance of things like Lane Keep Assist – which was developed to keep distracted-by-technology “drivers” from wandering out of their lane and into opposing traffic – or off the road.

But there is a more sinister aspect to all of this, methinks.

It is a synergistic movement toward the automated car. People are being conditioned to be so gadget-addled that they will see – and accept the manufactured need for – the car to take over the driving. So that they can concentrate on the “apps” – and tapping and swiping.

This is desirable, from the viewpoint of those who want to control the population even more tightly than it is already controlled. Imagine it: No one can just go where they want to, whenever they want to, as they want to. Instead, they will be taken where the government-corporate nexus allows them to go, at its pleasure.

The only way to stop this, I fear, is for a very large percentage of the population to refuse to go along with it. Unfortunately, it appears that a majority of people love all this technology – just look at everyone with their faces buried in dey sail fawn all day long.

It was only about 20 years ago that most people didn’t have a sail fawn at all.  And made perhaps a couple of calls a day on a land line phone.

No cars had touchscreens.

And people drove their own cars, without “assistance” from technology.

Ah well.

. . .

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  1. For the manufacturers, of course, it is not just a fad but a cost savings which they can sell to the shiny object buyer as a new feature. You can put thousands of controls on a touch screen, which connects with a single network cable to the computers. Individual controls require individual wires, installation by workers, and of course careful engineering design to optimize the placement of all the essential controls.

    In my business, we do the same- a small touch screen replaces hundreds of switches, buttons, lights, and strip charts. A $3500 industrial touch screen can replace $50000 of discrete controls very easily. Of course, in my business nobody dies if some operator is trying to figure out how to change a setting and stares at the screen for a few seconds too long.

    • I saw that “cheap” writing on the wall when this first started. Relatively no labor to install that screen and it might not even have anything but a power wire to it.

  2. It would be much better if a touch device were located in the middle of the steering wheel- glancing up and down and having the device spatially front and center would greatly diminish the problems. But of course, the evil system put small claymore mines there.

  3. Eric,

    All I’ll say is this: there’s a REASON airplane cockpits still feature many knobs, switches, and buttons. They’re safer! Careful thought is given to what kind of control it’ll be, where it’s placed, etc. Are there screens in the modern cockpit? Yes, but it’ll usually take manipulating an actual control to change the display or look at something in particular. But yeah, even modern cockpits still have a plethora of old fashioned controls, switches, buttons, etc. because they’re safer for the pilots to deal with.

    3-4 years ago, for shits and giggles, I looked at a Tesla. I went to the mall and visited the store. It was a good/bad news situation with the touchscreen. Good news is that Tesla’s touch screen is among the best in the business! Even I, who at the time had never used a tablet or smart phone, was able to figure it out and comfortably use it in less than 5 minutes. The bad news is that EVERYTHING (and I do mean everything) on the car is controlled via the touch screen. Even something as simple as changing the blower fan speed requires the touch screen; there’s no knob to grasp, so you can set it without taking your eyes off the road.

    • Hi Mark,


      The main safety issue with the touchscreen is that it is not possible to touch the icon for the function you want without looking at the screen to locate the icon. There is no way to do it by feel – as you can with a knob or button. Also, once the car is moving, accurately touching it is very difficult because you – your hand – is moving as the car moves. Trying to accurately use a touchscreen in a moving car is like connecting a fuel drogue and following aircraft’s receiver nozzle. It take concentration and time. Maybe just enough time to not notice that the car ahead of you just hit the brakes and then…

  4. It would be hard to prove but I’m convinced these damn screens have caused countless wrecks. It was bad enough to have to look at a stereo with tiny buttons that were impossible to figure out and impossible to control without looking at them and even then quite difficult. Now add ever system on a car that’s on a screen that’s confusing to say the least, how can you keep your eyes on the road and down somewhere in the dash looking at a screen? You can’t. I’m sure many accidents are caused by these screens.


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