Is Ford’s New High-Tech Control Dangerous?

“Ford has a better idea” was the company’s slogan in the 1960s. I’m wondering if its current “better idea” is dangerous. I’m referring to a new driver interface in the Ford Edge (also available in the Lincoln).

Ford dashA touch-screen interface does away with most knobs and buttons. According to Consumer Reports (Feb. 2011):

The driver interface systems use an 8-inch video touch screen in the center of the dashboard, with a panel of touch-sensitive buttons under it. It also includes two 4.2-inch dashboard displays flanking the speedometer that can be configured to show different gauges and perform some of the same functions as the center screen.

If that sounds confusing, it gets worse: The system also recognizes and responds to voice commands. It all adds up to three or four ways to make what should be simple adjustments. None of the options works as well or is as easy to use as old-fashioned knobs and switches, and they can be more time-consuming and distracting to operate.

The center screen’s cluttered pages, tiny buttons, and small fonts make choosing the right spot to touch difficult. The screen can be slow to respond.

Touch-sensitive buttons are designed to respond to a finger tap or swipe across their surface. They look high-tech but tend either to make bigger adjustments than you want or not respond at all – especially if you are wearing gloves. Their small size makes them difficult to find at a glance.

How is use of this interface less distracting than talking or texting on a cell phone? In places where use of cell phones while driving is outlawed, could this car be outlawed? Bring back the knobs and buttons.