Volkswagen will reintroduce buttons to dashboards because everyone hates the touch controls

Originally published at: Volkswagen will reintroduce buttons to dashboards because everyone hates the touch controls - Boing Boing


“Touch controls” was always a misnomer emerging from “touchscreen”. The real touch controls are the knobs, buttons, and dials that one can identify and operate by position and feel alone.


Next up: the F-35….

Seriously though, they’ve spent billions on it and seem to actually have reasons for it. It’s not like a consumer vehicle where they have limited things to control. And people have already decided how their entertainment works. It works exactly like the phone they are used to or it is “wrong”.


About fucking time!

It’s interesting to imagine the corporate and engineering environment which resulted in such low-end hardware and software that runs like the menu of a pirated DVD. Some wedding of faddish UI bling and bean-counting. All without apparently caring that what they’d made was seriously unusable.

There is one simple and accurate answer to why this happened. Less to do with engineering or design (though those guys need to take their share of the blame for their ‘because we could and it’s cool’ attitude) and more - MUCH more - simply beancounters!

One of the latest Volvo EVs only has window controls in the centre binnacle. None on the doors. This to avoid having to run extra wiring round the sides of the car when it can all be run through the centre more cheaply. And I’ve ranted before about how Volvo - of all companies, the one with the relentless focus on safety - has lost its way and genuflected to its Chinese owners in its cheap use of touchscreens to control everything, forcing drivers to take their eyes off the road for far longer than is necessary or safe because of the manufacturer’s rejection of physical switchgear.

ETA The predictably sad thing is that all the other manufacturers will be looking at VW and saying ‘nah, we don’t need to do this because our touchscreen interface is vastly superior to that crap’. Something, something, high on their own supply - because they utterly fail to comprehend the root problem.


I didn’t know Volkswagen had done that, but I’m glad they’re undoing it, at least partly. I have a washer and dryer that have touch controls, and I fucking hate it. There’s not even any haptic feedback, so it doesn’t even try to pretend to work like an actual button. And half the time, when I press the start “button” nothing happens and I have no idea why. There’s no feedback. Sometimes, I have to touch the damned spot 5 times just to get the thing to start, and it’s a good thing I’m not super strong, because I would have chucked the thing out the window years ago if I could have.


OMG, finally!

Hoping other manufacturers follow suite tout de suite.

I’d wager that if all cars magically transformed overnight to only have tactile (non-touchscreen) controls, accident rates would drop.


Except on my smartphone (although I do wish it also had a slide-out keyboard.)


Is it too much to hope they’ll remember to not make all the buttons contiguous so they all feel the same? My hazard lights (In a GMC Sierra) are a physical button in the middle of a row of 9 identical buttons. Good luck pressing that quickly without looking.


And a physical home screen button!

I was sad when my phone company stopped supporting my old phone that had the slide-out keyboard. It was way better for typing


That’s odd. They still need to run wires to the doors to power and control the windows (and the central locking). The window motors are presumably on the CAN bus, so the buttons can be put anywhere.


Indeed, it is odd. I can’t find the original review I saw/read that noted this in detail but this one (below) hits most of the same targets. The worst thing is no display in front of the driver/wheel, so you have to look to the side to see the centrally mounted touchscreen to see your speed, etc.

A fucking touchscreen to open the glovebox - how can wiring a simple latch/lock to a digital control system and actuator be cheaper, FFS?

It took us a while to find the opening for the central glovebox – it’s on the touchscreen – and the same applies to the window switches, which are on that centre armrest.

That does mean that the doors don’t feature any electric switches – it could be Volvo’s obsession with minimalism, although it’s also cheaper to site them centrally because it requires less cabling – but at least the door handles are beautifully designed and made from aluminium.

The mirror controls aren’t on the doors, either; you have to go through a couple of menus before you find out how to reposition them, then you have to use the buttons on the steering wheel to move them.

The over-reliance on the touchscreen – 12.3 inches in size – is one of our few criticisms of the car. Volvo will say that you rarely have to move the mirrors once you’ve set them, but if you do, it’s an unnecessary and potentially dangerous faff. The company will monitor usage and tweak things using software-over-the-air updates to make improvements, it says.

There’s no display in front of the driver, either, so you’ll have to glance left to the screen to keep an eye on your speed – a bit of a surprise for safety-conscious Volvo (although every other safety and driver assistance feature you’d expect is on board).


When I drive at night my eyes hurt if there’s a lot of extra light in the car so the trend of “replace everything with a giant iPad” is kind of awful.

I’m happy VW is recognizing their problems, but having test driven the ID4, EV6, and Mach E recently, the VW interface is especially bad. It’s not simply “there are no buttons”, the digital interface has little consistency and is confusing. Essential functionality hidden behind a sea of “hamburger” and “meatball” UI elements.

When we went to test drive the ID4, the first thing the salesperson did is give us a tutorial on the UI, and we needed it.

I love the look of the ID Buzz, I’m hoping they fix their usability issues before that comes out.

One of the reason companies choose screens is they are cheap and easy to change, it doesn’t require new physical parts and the company can iteratively improve the UI. I would also love to see manufacturers play with some kind of a hybrid interface. Imagine if your car came with buttons and knobs that could be popped out and moved around based on preference. Like a stream deck for your car.


I have a Mazda, absolutely hate the dash blight. Thankfully it is one of the smaller displays, unlike some that look like the screen was ripped off a 19" laptop and glued to the dashboard.

I love the control & volume knob beside the seat on the middle console, that along with some buttons on the steering wheel … they do the job. But the menu structure, the everyday access to features is maddening.

You can only get Android/Apple if you also have the navigation package SD card plugged in, I’ve yet to find an app that manages songs in the most basic method - folders & files. Everything is by artist or album or rating. Reminds me of a Windows folder that shows music files with only music-type information fields… show me the extension and file size ffs… yes it’s an MP3 but I manage my songs as files,

I end up with my phone on the passenger seat playing YouTube via BT and trying to stealth-touch the ‘skip->’ as I’m driving.

I could look past all that bunk though IF there was a hard button to turn off the friggen display. Why is “Turn Off Display” 3 menus deep? Why do I have to distract myself while driving in order to turn off a distracting screen?

As far as the entertainment aspect to the touchscreen, I can sure leave it. The Sony Xplode I had from my old car had line-in, USB and played MP3 CD’s. Was perfect, now on shelf gathering dust.

One thing I am grateful for (and this is a deal-breaker), I have physical climate control dials and buttons. There may be some motor or actuator still doing the job but I can wear mitts and still control the heat.

I would have to say the touchscreen (preferably none at all) would very much influence my next purchase (fk me I’ll end up with a EV & 32" curved that shows the NASDAQ trading board but not play FLAC).


I get so mad at bad UI. I want to lock the people who build it into a room with it and say, “Use the fucking product you designed for 8 hours and then tell me why you made such a terrible interface!”

It’s like they do something and then don’t actually use it, because if you spent 30 minutes with it you would go, oh, this looked good on paper, but it is terrible to use.

Tactile controls are safer on the road because you can confirm what you are touching by feel. You don’t have to stare at the temp control knob to make sure you are touching it and moving it to the right point, you glace at it, touch it, and adjust it with out having to look at it. Same with like radio controls.

I think things like map screen features are nice, but boy, they would be so much nicer with a screen for the map and actual buttons that controlled it tht you don’t have to look at to use.

I STILL miss my old Samsung with the slide out keyboard for texting. That phone is what made me like to text. Touch screen texting I still do not like.


In aircraft, the basic controls are distinguishable by shape. The knob on the landing gear lever is shaped like a wheel, the one on the flaps confrol is shaped like an airfoil etc. The shapes are standardized and use by all manufacturers.


Buttons are bougie, fleshy tactile is where it’s at.


My 2001 model car is similar. Although non-intuitive, it simplifies things because you don’t have an extra switch and associated wiring so that the driver can control the passenger window.

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There’s an entire networking architecture that exists to simplify wiring in cars. Everything is on the bus and nothing needs dedicated wiring.


Interior designed by Cronenberg.


Safety and distraction are the big ones for me.

The biggest issue for me is that every car UI is subtly different too. Getting into a car now becomes a question of “where is …?”.

Even starting the bastards is a challenge and I’m a degree-qualified electronics engineer and software architect!

I had a chat with my wife’s parents a couple of weeks ago and we concluded that they (in their 80s) were effectively being excluded from driving this type of car.


Press and hold the volume button to turn off display.