Don't Waste Your Money: New car touch screens spark controversy - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Don't Waste Your Money: New car touch screens spark controversy

(WTOL) - The average car in the U.S. is now more than 10 years old. That means there is a lot of pent up demand for new cars this spring. If you are walking onto a car lot for the first time in four or five years, you may be amazed on how some of today's new cars now look like iPads on the inside.

However, the federal government is now raising questions about the touch screens in some cars, wondering it they are becoming too much of a distraction.

Auto Sales Rebounding

The auto industry is back with GM recently reporting record profits. New sports cars like the Shelby GT 500 Mustang and Camaro ZL1 are displaying record horsepower. Plus you will find a record number of hip small cars from the tiny Fiat 500 to Scion's new iQ.

It all means that car shows are showing off more new cars than in the past five years.

"It's a bigger show, a better show. The auto industry is back on its feet," said Ed Ammann of the Cincinnati Auto Dealers Association.

If you go to a car show this year, the main thing you will notice in new cars is new technology.

Like an iPad in the Dash

What is the biggest difference you will see between today's new cars and your 10-year-old car? The technology touch screen, like a 5-inch iPad,  in the middle of the dash.

Nissan Operations Manager Steve Hall showed off the in-car display in a Nissan Murano SUV. Not only does it have an easy to use full-time GPS navigator, but the screen keeps you posted on your car's maintenance, right down to tire rotation intervals and oil filter life.

Like many others screens in cars such as Ford, Toyota, General Motors and Chrysler, the screens flips instantly into a radio, Bluetooth screen for your cell phone, or backup camera display. The camera even displays green lines to show you where you are going. If you back up too close to another car, it shows red.

Touch screens are available in most new cars now, even economy cars. Hall said if you are new to them, do not be intimidated.

"It takes just a few minutes to get used to things, and like with anything else, it becomes second nature," explained Hall.

More and More New Features

Add in stability control, now mandatory, and adaptive cruise control in higher end cars, which will automatically slow you down when you get closer to the car ahead of you, and you have the car of the future. Except that it is here today.

"A person told me the other day they didn't buy a new car, they bought a computer with four wheels," joked Ammann.

Technology Not for Everyone

What if you are not into car touch screens, and would prefer knobs for your radio and air conditioning?

Touch screens vary. Some control a lot more than others. German cars such as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes use the touch screen, or a central control knob, to control the radio and climate controls.  Most American cars have separate radio knobs because American drivers prefer it.

Ford recently simplified its My Ford Touch control screen because drivers complained it was too complicated.

The government is now questioning whether an overload of touch screen navigation is distracting drivers from the road. It is a valid question. 

Most automakers still offer basic models that do not include the touch screen.

That way you don't waste your money.

Read more Don't Waste Your Money.

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