Where Have All The Knobs Gone?

Touchscreens are what’s “in” in new cars.  You see touchscreens everywhere being used for almost everything.  What ever happened to knobs?  I like knobs.  Knobs are easy to find and easy to use.  Particularly knobs used for controlling radio volume, fan speed, temperature and HVAC selections.  You can find a knob by touch.  Knobs can be used with gloves on.  Knobs can make quick changes.  In the old days if I wanted to lower the temperature by ten degrees I could do it with one quick turn of a knob.  Now I have to tap a “down” arrow ten times.

Tesla 17" touchscreen

Tesla 17″ touchscreen

It appears that virtually all manufacturers are using touchscreens to control as many things as possible.  Tesla has done away with knobs entirely; everything is controlled by a touch-screen.  Tesla rightly points out that a touchscreen can be updated and that makes some sense.  But I can’t help but wonder what happens when a small child is in range of Tesla’s 17-inch touch screen.  Also, how to you find a control by touch on a touchscreen?

Some manufacturers still have knobs for controlling volume and tuning but they put them in the wrong place or make them the wrong size or both.  Why would you put the volume control knob below the tuning knob?  Too often I’m in a hurry to turn the volume up (or down if it’s a song I don’t like) and grab the tuning knob by mistake because it is the largest and on top.  For fifty years (at least) you could drive any car and find the volume control on the left, the tuning knob on the right.

And, why would you make the tuning knob larger than the volume control?  Chevy got it right for the HHR, but then blew it on the Volt.  MINI made the same mistake as Chevy, but their volume and tuning knobs were even harder to tell apart.

Chevy Volt - the volume control is below the large tuning knob.

Chevy Volt – the volume control is below the large tuning knob.

Thankfully the newer MINIs have done away with this particular design flaw. Maybe Chevy will catch the hint.

Ford is almost as bad as Chevy.  In the Ford C-Max what looks to be volume and tuning knobs are actually dual-zone climate controls.  At least there is a volume control knob… it just doesn’t look like one.

It’s true that almost all new cars offer buttons or paddles or something on the steering wheel for controlling radio volume or changing the station/source.  The problem is too many manufacturers, Toyota for instance, try to do too much in a limited space.  Try to change the volume on a Prius and half the time you will end up changing the station.  I know, I owned one, it almost drove me insane (figuratively speaking).

At first glance you might think this is a radio, rather than Ford's dual-zone climate control system.

At first glance you might think this is a radio, rather than Ford’s dual-zone climate control system.

So all you automobile manufacturers out there bring back the knobs, at least a few of them.
And put them in the right place.  That way we can turn down our radios, change stations, turn up the heat and do it all wearing gloves.  Oh, and if you think I am being too hard on cars, don’t even get me started on oven controls.