Commentary

The Struggle To Make Car Technology More People-Friendly

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In many ways, the cutting edge of the auto industry is on the inside of the car. The infotainment system of today seems to be replacing the RPMs and horsepower of yesterday. People don't want to leave their technology behind when they get into a car.

That's why yesterday's Consumer Reports blog post about MyFord Touch landed with a thunk in my email inbox.

"In the end, our frustration with MyFord Touch has hammered many Ford models' test scores to a level below our threshold to recommend a model. In any case, we wouldn't recommend dealing with the frustrations of MyFord Touch on a daily basis even to an adversary," CR writes.

Ford pointed out in an email response to Consumer Reports that "71 percent of owners with the new upgrade say they would recommend MyFord or MyLincoln Touch to others."

MyFord Touch is Ford's big gambit to entice tech-savvy drivers (note: NPR and Ford have collaborated to incorporate NPR content into the MyFord Touch system). And as The Atlantic points out, carmakers are becoming increasingly frantic about getting young buyers — who presumably would be attracted by new technology in cars.

As we become more mobile and connected, we want our cars to do the same. That sometimes comes with a steep learning curve. As someone over 35, I have found all the various systems (regardless of manufacturer) confusing, frustrating and difficult. When I test cars I often have to call the manufacturers to figure out how things work — and that's with the best systems.

My friend and fellow car reporter Tracy Samilton shares the overall Ludditeness with me. "Knobs and buttons were invented for a reason," she says. "They're designed to interact perfectly with our wonderfully sensitive fingertips and primate grasp." But this could be a generational thing: My young friends in the automotive press don't have the problems I do.

Tracy and I have done a fair amount of reporting about in-car gadgetry. It looks like we'll have to keep reporting on it for some time to come.

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