There was a time when the only controls on a car’s steering column were the turn signal and the gear selector. Everything else was on the dashboard or at the driver’s feet. Readers over a certain age will especially remember the button on the floor that turned the bright headlights on and off.
When auto manufacturers started loading functions onto the turn-signal stalk, confused drivers complained. “I can’t even see the controls on that stalk!” they cried. Then other stalks began to be added to the steering column, such as this one that specifically operated the cruise control.
We’re all used to this now. After the initial learning curve with a new car, our fingers find the buttons and levers on these steering-column controls just fine. We don’t even have to look.
Now we’re all getting used to the large touch screens that dominate our dashboards. Turn on the air conditioning? Navigate the menus on the touch screen. Change the radio station? Menus. Bring up your map application? Menus.
Right now this seems to be a bridge too far. “How am I supposed to find anything on that screen while I’m driving down the road? I just want to turn up the heat.”
We all adapted to the steering-column controls. Nobody complains about them anymore. Will we similarly adapt to touch screens?