Where a Touch Screen Does Not Work

Touch screens are becoming more and more common. From Smartphones and Tablets to touchscreen monitors that take advantage of Windows 8 Metro Interface. However, trying to put a touch screen in a car while can work for some of the ‘physical’ controls, should not be a replacement for all all of those said controls. Unfortunately, that is just what Cadillac’s CUE system has done, it has eliminated all the physical controls for climate control as well as the entertainment system. The 8-inch screen does support a really nice 800×480 resolution and runs off of Linux (hate to think if it used Windows). But, that is really all that is good about it.

Tom’s Hardware’s Wolfgang Gruener took a very in depth look at this $1300 ‘upgrade’ for the Cadillac ATS sedan and found many okay may not many, more like an excessive amount of flaws. The biggest problem is the system is under-powered with a 3-core processor (2 of which are reserved for voice) which makes they system very slow in both response to your touch and processing. I just can not imagine not having physical controls for the climate control system, where you can make a simple adjustment just by feel without having to take your eyes of the road. It could work well in handling the car’s entertainment system, but it seems to software is so poorly designed that it actually makes it more difficult to do simple task:

The main screen of CUE consists of only eight items – Audio, Phone, Navigation, Settings, Pandora, Weather, Climate and OnStar. While this seems to be sufficiently simple, moving your audio output, for example, from a USB stick to a satellite radio station requires you to move to the home screen via a touch-sensitive button on the side of the dash, pressing the audio icon, then the satellite radio icon, then the browse icon, and then slide a scroll bar to the station you are looking. Moving from one radio station to another requires the driver passenger to always first move the hand toward the screen so that the proximity sensor can initiate the display of respective icons (which also happens with a delay).

This all happens, of course, most likely when you are driving and with the aforementioned reaction delays of the software. When completed, you will have removed your eyes from the road to the screen five times and you may have spent 20 to 30 seconds. In most other cars you can do the same within 5 seconds.

And then there is a bit of annoying ‘bug’ in regards to the entertainment system too:

Twice during our week, a bug caused to automatically increase the audio volume to its maximum level. The only resolution was to stop the car, turn it off and back on for a full restart of CUE.

Of course it is being compared to BMW’s iDrive system which was not without issues during its first release. Nonetheless, I still think this system should be used just for GPS and the in-car entertainment system, not climate control. It needs a better processor and likely a complete software re-write perhaps to an Android platform instead. Still, it could have been worse had it been Windows based. Get a Blue Screen of Death and the car must be shut down and restarted to ‘reboot’ the system. In the meantime you have no A/C or heat, GPS or radio controls until you can find somewhere safe to stop and reboot.

The biggest problem is touchscreen and cars just don’t mix. I suppose it is fine if your front seat passenger can work the system. A touch screens requires you to actually look at it to see what you are doing. As if drivers are not distracted enough with cell phones, GPS, laptops (yes there have been reports of police stopping people who were driving and using their laptops at the same time). Personally, I would have really no interest in this system (not that I plan on getting a Cadillac anytime soon, but I am sure in a few short years GM and others will be offering something similar (and hopefully better) in all their product lines). I like having physical controls for everything in my car, especially the radio and bluetooth which have additional controls mounted right on the steering wheel. Climate control is 3 knobs and a couple buttons fairly simple to operate/adjust without having to take my eyes off the road.

Read the full story at Tom’s Hardware: Cadillac CUE: Why a Touch Screen is Not Always a Good Idea