Vehicle touchscreens should be more like the Apple Watch

“I’ve long been critical of auto manufacturers often-haphazard deployment of touchscreens. The basic gist of my gripes: These displays often force drivers to take their eyes off the road in order to navigate unintuitive interfaces with lots of tiny text and no tactile feedback,” Seth Porges writes for Forbes. “Test-driving some luxury vehicles makes me yearn for the days when the most complex dashboard control was a simple tuner dial: A learning curve-free control whose graspability and satisfying ‘click’ makes it very easy to use without so much as a glance.”

“Still, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that not only are in-car touchscreens here to stay. After all, they look great in showrooms and have infinitely adjustable displays that are ideal for displaying disparate chunks of information such as satellite radio, maps, and traffic alerts. The key then becomes to create a touchscreen that is minimal in its distraction, effective at delivering information with a quick glance, and has some sort of tactile control,” Porges writes. “In other words: Car manufacturers need to make touchscreens that operate less like an iPad, and more like an Apple Watch.”

Much more in the full article – recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take: Before long, iPad will operate less like an iPad and more like an Apple Watch. Force Touch on every applicable Apple device (iPhones, iPads, Magic Trackpads) ASAP! (BTW: Apple’s Magic Mouse always had its own “Force Touch” as taps on it are discrete from clicks).

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Edward W.” for the heads up.]


  1. They need to be bigger too. These 4.3 screens in cars are way too small! Tesla has a nice large screen, but I don’t like that its more vertical than horizontal.

    1. Vertical screen means they can have two “windows” displayed at the same time. If screen itself were horizontal you’d have to make do with a single window or two portrait windows.

  2. I use my iPad 1 as a car nav with Navigon. Bloody brilliant!

    But I never try fiddling with settings while driving, it’s just too distracting. I set things up beforehand in the car and if a change becomes urgent I find a parking space. Its just too silly to die over a nav setting. Seriously.

    1. Seriously. While driving, no control should need to be looked at- turning through clicks, pressing a specific button- these can be done with minimal practice while keeping attention on the road. Visual displays within the driver’s visual field are dangerous, and used to be prohibited, and I’m not at all sure why they still are not prohibited. If I ran an insurance company, I’d tack on a significant increase in the rates if a car were equipped with a visual distraction like that.

  3. For safety and for liability reasons, I suspect auto companies are going to have to figure out heads up controls with voice control on some things. Controls in the steering wheel make sense as do items above the windshield.

    If you’re driving & look down and to the right to see a screen in the bright sunlight, it is a death wish.

    Examples of what goes wrong are already ‘painfully’ obvious. I can’t remember how many times I’ve changed lanes because the person behind me is looking down at his cell phone on his lap, so the CHP won’t see him texting, and I know if I stop quick I’m going to have whiplash.

    The average person can’t deal with multiple tasks when critical things are going on.

  4. Car screens DO NOT need to work more like the Apple Watch and less like an iPad. They need to implement the original promise of Car Play. They need to be BOTH hands free and eyes free. Screens need to be there as ONLY a convenience and NOT a necessity in order to operate everything about the car.

  5. Confused about MDN’s take. Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but there’s nothing “Force Touch” about the Magic Mouse or Trackpad. A click is a click and a tap is a tap. There’s no in-between. Sure, you can make it register a tap as a click, but that doesn’t make it a “Force Touch” device.

  6. I’ve personally never noticed. I turn my music on when I set off then just change the volume or change tracks from the steering wheel. If I’m using sat nav I check my route before then set it going when I start. Whilst I agree that touch screens are crap in cars I still prefer physical buttons even over more apple watch like feedback because you can feel for a button before touching it, as I understand it you only get haptic feedback upon pressing a button (at least currently) you still need to look at it to make sure you press the right one. It’s similar for a tv remote. I had a touch screen remote and have used remotes on iOS, the problem with all of them is that regardless of the response you still need to look at them. In the dark, if I’m watching tv, I don’t even look, I just feel for the volume and press it. If I’m in the car and want to adjust the temperature I just turn the dial a bit. I’m all for improvement, but I still think there is something to be said for physical things. I wouldn’t want the iPhone to do away with the few buttons it has now for example.

  7. Cars are increasingly putting displays in with the odometer and the other instruments behind the steering wheel, personally I’d make them of slightly higher quality and then do everything with basic steering wheel and voice control. That way you can just glance down rather than moving your head to look at something to the side.
    Aside from making things bigger if you are displaying enough information to warrant a large screen that you need to take your hands off the wheel I would suggest that it is a distraction no matter the feedback you get from it.

  8. The nearly 18″ display in the Telsla Model S is enormous, but the best in-car screen I’ve seen yet. It’s so well thought out it is very likely there was Apple, or ex-Apple employee input to it. In a recent test drive however, it was distracting to try and bring up the correct screen for a function and then to change pertinent settings. But this is not much different to trying to find conventional controls in a car one is unfamiliar with. The screen was well integrated into the overall interior design, but I can’t help agreeing with others that perhaps a car is not the safest place to be using a display. Time will tell if these increasingly screen equipped cars have higher crash rates.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.