I will agree on this one, and I speak from experience. I travel a lot for work, and as such, rent a lot of cars. Every week I get to fumble around with whatever asinine "state of the art" infotainment system each manufacturer has come up with. Lately I have seen Toyata, Ford and GM's take on this. I have seen none that are better than just plain old buttons. Even just forgetting the fact that there is no tactile feedback for a second, the actual UI of the system is not conducive to operating with quick glances. The make it such a "rich" interface that I can't easily tell what is info and what is an actionable button. Then add in the fact that once you find a button and tap it, the whole screen changes and you have a whole new set of information and buttons to try to process (and god forbid the buttons stay in the same place or follow and common pattern from screen to screen). With the old classic buttons, I could generally hop in the car for the first time, take a quick look over the dash to figure out where volume and seek are and how to adjust the A/C, get those all set once, and then from then on, adjusting on-the-fly was easy, since I had already figured out everything that needed to be figured out. Not possible with these touch screens and I often catch myself fiddling while driving (which I really try to avoid, but these tend to lure me in much more easily).
Ford decided to take the idiocy to a new level, though. And I guess this makes sense given their relationship with Microsoft. So Ford was probably hearing all of these complaints about no tactile feedback and needing buttons and they say, "you know what, you're right, and boy do we have the solution for you!" They decided to put buttons in, but instead of regular old buttons (cause those are for losers!) they use touch sensitive buttons built into a textured panel. They function similar to those buttons that are not really buttons that some laptop and TV manufacturers started using a couple years ago (which I HATE) and the main Android buttons on many smartphones.So it looks like your old buttons, with each function having a dedicated location and being raised up from the dash with painted on labels/logos, but a little slicker since there are no gaps/seems around the buttons since nothing needs to be pressed in. At first glance, you think, neat, Ford gets it. Then you try to use it like your old school button interface, and that's where it all breaks down. You feel for the radio station seek buttons. There is a + and a -. You what to seek up, but your fingers find the down first .Ok, just gotta move over one and I got it, you think as you blindly feel around. But it's too late! you have already touch + and the radio station has switched in the wrong direction. You try to correct, but this time, when you again try to reach without taking your eyes off the road, you brush against the thermostat, and you've set it to full blast hot. An it's July. In Arizona. So now you are stuck literally sweating to the oldies while you barrel down the highway in a car you are not very familiar with. I'm sure if I owned these cars, I would get used to them, and it would be a little safer over time, but is it any better than what we had before
I'm OK with including a touch screen, but it can't be the only way to interact. It has to be a combination of buttons and touch. Buttons should be there for all of the standard, commonly used functions like volume, input change (i.e. FM, AM, SAT, AUX), seek, etc. If you want to then make all of the audio tweaks (Bass, treble, balance), car setup, device pairing, or other odd functions, sure, put them on the touch screen, since those are things I will typically only do when I'm not driving. Or if it's something like answering the phone, it just becomes a big touch screen button that I can mash with my hand quickly without the need for much accuracy. I think some manufacturers get this, or at least used to get this, and have done what I suggest (My parent's VW has such a system) but so many are getting carried away with turning the car into an iPad that they forget where they are putting it (a car) and what you will also be doing while trying to operate it (driving).