The German automaker has admitted that touch capacitive steering controls aren't great.
As cars become more like smartphones with bigger infotainment screens and more connectivity than ever before, many consumers are quickly discovering that more technology is not necessarily better. While smartphones are easily operated by touch controls because you're always looking at the screen, drivers in cars need to keep their eyes on the road and touch-capacitive controls tend to make that very difficult. You simply cannot feel your way around controls - you have to look down to see that you're touching the correct "button," and this ergonomics disaster is particularly bad in new Volkswagens. Thankfully, VW has been listening to the complaints of buyers and journalists alike and has decided to revert back to physical button controls for steering wheels.
This problem is one of the biggest gripes we have with the Volkswagen Golf GTI and other recent products from Wolfsburg, but the automaker's chief operating officer, Thomas Schafer, isn't ignoring the issue. In a post on LinkedIn, the executive wrote, "We are sharpening our portfolio and our design, plus creating a new simplicity in operating our vehicles. For example, we are bringing back the push-button steering wheel. That's what customers want from VW."
Earlier this year, CarBuzz spoke with Hein Schafer of VW of America, who said that changing back from touch controls would be tricky and that, while American buyers want buttons and knobs, European buyers may not. But as Thomas Shafer's post on LinkedIn indicates, it seems that buyers everywhere would prefer more physical controls, and VW will accommodate them.
Numerous studies have proved that touch controls are distracting, and while massive screens and fancy-looking touch controls may help a car look more premium, they can cheapen the overall experience.
Buttons on steering wheels will be welcomed back, but we hope that this is not the only thing that VW will fix. Another gripe we have with the aforementioned GTI is that its climate control panel is not backlit, which makes it nearly impossible to adjust settings when ambient light is scant. Presumably, this was a cost-cutting measure, but it has been a genuine reason for many fans of the brand to look elsewhere. Whatever the reasons for decisions like these, it's great to see an automaker listening to its customers and working to make them happy.