/ Motoring, Technology

Are you baffled by in-car tech?

New cars are packed with ever more technology, including rapidly expanding touchscreens controlling everything from cabin heating to sat nav. But do these systems really make driving easier?

In the past, if you had a driving licence, you could jump into any car and drive away in seconds. Now though, it can feel like you need to take a training course to navigate your way around a new car.

Even trying to start a modern car can see you searching around the dash on the hunt for the starter button (what was wrong with a key?) with some companies siting this crucial control far out of comfortable reach.

And complicated touchscreen ‘infotainment’ systems can be even more challenging, often requiring you to delve into onscreen menus to adjust basic controls such as speaker volume or open the sunroof.

But do you think that these sophisticated media systems make driving any more streamlined – or do you find them a distraction? Would you rather more conventional controls that take much less getting used to?

Help using your car tech

It seems Toyota know that some drivers need a helping hand with their in-car controls. The company has launched no fewer than 10 new videos to help owners find their way around their Touch 2 multimedia and navigation system.

These cover everything from connecting your phone to the car, to updating maps and software and setting up an online ‘Toyota customer portal’ account. Credit to Toyota for trying to help owners get the most of their cars but I wonder if the need for guidance defeats its purpose to make the in-car experience smoother?

More features or simpler controls?

Now, I’m a huge fan of the trusty sat nav, but the appeal for me is that it makes my life easier. Having to set up accounts, transfer files onto a memory stick, plug in to the car to download updates and then wade through multiple menus does not appeal to me.

Would you rather have more functions and large touchscreens to play with or a pared back, simple dashboard with controls you can navigate by touch? I’ve recently bought an 11-year-old car and love its uncomplicated dashboard and easy to use controls – so I know which side I stand on, but what about you?

Edwin Jones says:
25 April 2014

Had a hire car with a touchscreen on holiday in Corsica.

An absolute menace on all the windy roads!

Paul says:
25 April 2014

I like the RDS function on the radio. On a long journey, it automatically tunes to the next transmitter. The travel news comes on automatically too. If we don’t want to hear the travel news, because it is for an irrelevant area or because we are listening to something interesting on the radio, then on our previous car we could press the “TA” button on the front panel to instantly turned off the travel news. On the current car, that TA button is two levels down in the menu, so not so easy to use.

The electric handbrake on the current car is slower than the manual one on the previous car. It does not release fast enough to enable us to pull out in the gap between traffic at roundabouts. With a manual handbrake, it is possible to find the clutch’s biting-point while the handbrake is on, ready to drop the handbrake for a quick getaway. With an electric handbrake, if you find the clutch’s biting point, the handbrake releases and the car start to roll.

It is less distracting to press a button on the steering wheel or on the lighting/indicator stalks than to look at and use a touch screen in the centre of the dashboard. I suggest that most or all of the touch screen controls are disabled when the vehicle is moving.

Derek Putley says:
26 April 2014

I hate hire cars with button operated “electric” handbrakes. There seems to be no standard for the way these operate, so I am much happier (and feel a lot safer) if I get a car with a normal manual handbrake lever.

One of the reasons for not rushing in to purchasing a new car is the” new car touch screen trap” which, according to recent posts, can cost an arm and a leg if the touch screen says” no” when you wish, for example, to demist the windscreen.

I personally dislike the touch screen feature a lot and have no use for them. I have driven a number of cars with this feature and find that they are extremely distracting to use while driving.

I have effectively taken myself out of the market for a new car because I refuse to pay for features I don’t want. It would be nice if the manufacturers would give the buyer a choice and make the touch screens an option, but NOOO. They expect you to accept and pay for this standard equipment feature.

What you need Sir, is a nice inexpensive petrol base model Skoda Octavia.

There may be some good deals on those just now…

It’ll be good deals on the diesel ones surely

I hope that no diesels will be sold until the ‘discrepancies’ have been fixed. That would provide an incentive to get on and tackle the problem.

oh, Oh, OH OOH. I hate the things. The screens and the handbrakes both
On normal controls even in the dark you quickly get to expect where they are and when you touch them you recognise them.
I have been in cars with these screens and there will never be a place where you finger recognises without looking directly at the thing.
Similar to texting I’d say
Electric handbrakes appeared on Range Rovers a few years ago
Unreliable, seriously over priced to fix, maybe I better say replace because there’s no fixing of them and you still have the actual braking mechanism.
Its not like they replaced anything or made things simpler or better. I only know one person who likes them and she likes everything gadget’y.
A good old fashioned pressed tin lever with a button in the center or if you a yank a big pedal with a ratchet
I was a mechanic for many years and I cant say I ever remember habitual problems with a handbrake lever

I guess its just an age thing and buttons on the steering wheel with a touch screen for the detail set up when stopped – simples