We’re big proponents of used cars, but cars are aging faster because interiors are now so intertwined with our gadgets. If you’ve ever seen a computer or phone from five years ago you’ve probably laughed at how ancient those items look compared to what you have now. But a car from twenty years ago can still keep up with modern cars.
Unfortunately, a five year old car with a navigation system seems antiquated even though the car has many years of great performance ahead of it. This is one of the reasons we avoid navigation systems in the cars we buy. Obviously, finding a car without navigation is becoming harder, but it preserves the car’s interior in a more timeless way. And when we need navigation, most phones offer everything an in-dash system could provide. But nav-systems are only the beginning of the problem.
Go to any car dealer and they will list off all the in-car technology as some of the most important selling points. How a vehicle drives has become secondary to how easily we can interact with it in ways we expect from our computer, television, or phone. This means that in-car technology is now following office technology.
Touch screens have taken over our personal lives. From smart phones to tablets we interact with the world through the tip of our finger. Hundreds of buttons can be simplified into ever-changing pages of options. If you’ve ever sat in a Honda and been astounded by the sea of buttons, then the idea of a touch screen seems like a great way to clean things up.
But, changing car interiors from buttons to touch screens may be the most dangerous idea in modern design.
To prove this, try the following: set a smart phone on the table, close your eyes, and try to pull up your map application. This is nearly impossible without at least glancing at the screen for reference. The problem is a touch screen offers no tactility and by its very nature is constantly changing. They require you to look. But buttons and knobs are always in the same place and do the same exact thing every time, allowing a driver to quickly learn how to reach the stereo or change a setting with only muscle memory and peripheral vision. This isn’t possible with a touch-screen.
Now consider the interior of the Tesla S. The iPad has come to the automobile. In place of buttons and knobs, nearly everything but the driving is accomplished by a touch screen with no tactility or consistency. And while a knob or button never really looks like something from the last century, a computer screen will seem like an artifact before a car’s paid off.
So by linking cars to technologies we replace or upgrade in a few years, we’ve deemed the car equally disposable. And as we chase in-car internet and touch screens which steal our focus, we unwittingly push our culture closer to self-driving vehicles. If the interior needs our attention, then it’s actually helpful for the car to navigate on its own.
The Awarning is this: if you like driving, buy a car for the way it drives and makes you feel behind the wheel. Ignore the tech. Deny the touchscreen. Keep connectivity and car-control separate and a funny thing happens… you feel connected to the car!