Connected-Car Systems Are Looking to the iPad for Ideas

Jan 03, 2015 02:30 PM EST | Jordan Ecarma

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As cars get smarter, they're also becoming more complicated.

Going into the new year, the New York Times has reported some of the best and worst features in vehicle systems, highlighting the problems that consumers face when cars are so smart that they become inconvenient.

Everything seems to be going in the direction of the touch screen, so it will be up to carmakers to decide which features should have touch controls and which should retain physical buttons.

"Everybody's used to touch screens," Thomas Müller, Volvo's vice president for electrical and electronic systems engineering, told the Times. "You see them in modern kitchens; simple laptops come with a touch screen. It's become mainstream and a normal thing to do."

The Good

Chrysler's Uconnect system, which employs an 8.4-inch touch screen, earned strong reviews last year for its simple, streamlined controls. Along with touch controls, Chrysler included physical control buttons for heat and air as well as voice activation to change the radio or get the weather, allowing users to become comfortable with the new technology.

The Bad

As automakers incorporate tablet-like functions into their vehicle systems, both Cadillac and Ford have received criticism for touch-sensitive volume buttons that have been a struggle for drivers to use.

During a seven-year partnership with Microsoft, Ford's connected-car systems were criticized as unwieldy and complicated. The automaker's new system will use software from Blackberry-owned QNX Software Systems and include fewer icons that are additionally larger and easier to see.

The Uncertain

Audi is among the carmakers still unsure about incorporating touch screen technology. The German luxury brand hasn't yet said if a touch screen will be part of its upcoming next-generation in-vehicle system.

Using multiple touch screens could be better than implementing one iPad-like screen, Anupam Malhotra, Audi's senior manager for connected vehicles, told the Times.

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