Ford Adds Knobs to Help Touch-Screen Frustration in MyFord Touch

Physical knobs to be used for simpler functions

Amid continued customer criticism of its MyFord Touch infotainment technology, Ford Motor Company has announced that it will bring back conventional analog knobs for functions such as volume control and radio tuning in vehicles equipped with the system.

It seems that although capacitive touchscreens and voice activation controls sure sound cool, sometimes the simplest solution--a knob or two is the best solution.

Ford launched MyFord Touch back in 2010 and was one of the first and most ambitious attempts to give a vehicle's infotainment system the feel of a smartphone. It was a good idea in theory. The plan was to organize all of the car's technology features into one place -- an 8-inch touchscreen display – and have the driver operate the system via voice activation, the steering wheel-mounted controls or physically pressing the touchscreen.

The problem was that none of those operating options worked very well as a knob for too many consumers. The touchscreen was painfully laggy at times, confusing and voice recognition was mediocre at best. This resulted in frustration and backlash from consumer groups, the media and, worst of all, Ford vehicle buyers. The system was so hard to operate, in fact, that it contributed to the company taking an 18-point hit in the highly influential J.D. Power Initial Quality Study in 2011.

With the recent announcement that Ford vehicles would return to employing conventional analog knobs for some functions, consumers might expect to see the style of center stack featured in the 2013 F-150 pickup, the vehicle that currently has the highest rate of quality satisfaction for Ford.

Infotainment systems have been under scrutiny across the whole auto industry. The Ford announcement comes on the heels of safety concerns regarding the increasing use of technology in cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a set of voluntary guidelines for manufacturers around interactive touchscreens, suggesting that a driver shouldn't have to take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds at a time and 12 seconds to perform a function. AAA also found in a recent study that voice activated interfaces in the car are no safer than touchscreens because using them still slows reaction times and compromises a driver's focus on the road.

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