Why I Hate Touchscreens - 2014 Acura MDX AWD Long-Term Road Test

2014 Acura MDX AWD Long-Term Road Test

2014 Acura MDX: Why I Hate Touchscreens

February 13, 2014

2014 Acura MDX

I'm not a regular user of seat heaters, but it was somewhat chilly when I headed off to work at 5:00 a.m. this morning. Our 2014 Acura MDX has them, so I stabbed the button that sits at the bottom edge of the touchscreen.

Nothing happened.

Well, that's not strictly true. What I mean is the seat heater failed to ignite.

2014 Acura MDX

Instead, another screen popped up, a screen that did more than simply invite a second button press. This screen offered choices. And each choice required me to shift the position of my finger away from the location of the original button.

From a driver distraction standpoint, this was bad. I'd just been drawn deeper into the task. I had to re-examine the screen to comprehend the new landscape, make my choice, move my finger accordingly and press a new button.

That's a lot of eyeball time at 60 mph. And if the goal was to make a simple task more complicated, they certainly succeeded.

The nature of touchscreens makes it virtually impossible to memorize the locations of the buttons on the menus, the submenus, the sub-submenus and the inevitable sub-sub-submenus because they could be anywhere. They are everywhere, in fact. There isn't a square inch on the typical touchscreen that isn't used as a virtual button for something.

Meanwhile, you learn the fixed location of a dedicated button in short order. In many cases you get to the point where you never have to take that initial glance away from the road to find what you're looking for. Even if you do make that glance, it'll be a fleetingly brief one.

Take my seat heater scenario. With a dedicated button I'd take a quick peek to guide my finger home, then press away. I may have to let my gaze linger while I press a second time to change the setting from "three" to "two", but even that'd be optional.

I'd get heat on the first press. If an adjustment was necessary, I'd be pressing the same button. There'd be no landscape to learn, no need to move my finger to another spot. It'd be much more straightforward, much less time-consuming.

Come to think of it, Acura could have accomplished this if they had programmed the top-level virtual button to operate like this. Perhaps the touchscreen is not the enemy. Maybe it has more to do with the temptation to overcomplicate things with pop-up menus, a state of affairs that's all too easy with a touchscreen.

At least the Acura's seats got toasty warm in a hurry. That part was great.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 5,420 miles


  • dgcamero dgcamero Posts:

    Wow one place where MyFordTouch actually gets it as un-wrong as possible.

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    "What I mean is the seat heater failed to ignite." - That only happens in Toyotas.

  • blueprint1 blueprint1 Posts:

    Now, try this with gloves. WARM gloves, at -30°. Touchscreens bring unnnecessary complexity to simple, eyes-off tasks. Like driving.

  • boff_ boff_ Posts:

    Horrible, horrible ergonomics. Shame.

  • A case of "you can't win no matter what you do". Acura has been criticized for years for too many buttons. So they got rid of the buttons and replaced them with a multi screen system. Now you hate touch screens. For the record I prefer the buttons just for this reason. On my too many button Acura I simply press the seat heater button and it's on.

  • richardmayo richardmayo Posts:

    Could not agree more about the hatred of touch screens in a car. The 3 dial climate control, with additional buttons for seat warmers is so much better.

  • ed341 ed341 Posts:

    I think my vehicle has the ideal blend of actual controls and touch screen settings. The climate control, heated seats, volume and even suspension height are real buttons, the navigation input and audio adjustments are touch screen based. It almost makes sense for a driving environment..

  • metalmania metalmania Posts:

    I recently attended the annual new car show in my area. I honestly have to say the proliferation of touch screens (and just screens in general) is a turnoff for me. The phrase "these buttons (which weren't actual buttons) suck!" was repeated often. We've now got a number of vehicles where even the primary gauges are just reconfigurable screens in the instrument cluster. I really, really don't like that. Climate controls honestly should be a few real buttons and dials. I would prefer the screens to be only for audio and navigation systems, and they really need to be quick and intuitive. It's like they're cramming all this tech in just to say they have more features than the next guy. When you consider that some of them (soon to be all perhaps with new legislation) lock out a number of features once the car is rolling, it just seems to add frustration to the driving experience.

  • joner800 joner800 Posts:

    "There isn't a square inch on the typical touchscreen that isn't used as a virtual button for something." Try UConnect; in my opinion, the best touchscreen interface out there for the speed, ease of use (rarely are there sub-sub-submenus, unless youre using parts of the menu that are disabled while driving, like travel guides or actual vehicle settings), and the fact that there are dedicated widgets at the bottom of the screen to easily navigate through menus. go figure: dedicated virtual buttons on a touchscreen..!

  • spackman spackman Posts:

    For the life of me, I cannot understand why car companies are moving in this direction. I work in software and User Interface (UI) is a particular area of interest for me, and this kind of thing is bad. I really like the MDX and am considering one, but this touch interface really has me thinking twice.

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