New car touch screens spark controversy

Don't Waste Your Money

The average car in the U.S. is now more than 10 years old. That means theres lots of pent up demand this spring for new cars.

And if you're 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.

But 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 just reporting record profits.

New sports cars like the Shelby GT 500 Mustang and Camaro ZL1 are displaying record horsepower.

And you'll find a record number of hip small cars -- from the tiny Fiat 500 to Scion's new iQ  -- that you could fit in your back pocket.

Like an iPad in the dash

The biggest difference you'll see between today's new cars and your 7 - 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 me 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 cars maintenance, right down to tire rotation intervals and oil filter life.

Like many others screens, in cars from Ford to Toyota to GM 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. Steve if you're new to them, says  don't be intimidated.

More and more new features

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

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's here today.

Technology not for everyone

What if you're not into in 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 like Audi, BMW, and Mercedes use the touch screen, or a central control knob, to control the radio and climate controls.  Most American-branded 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.

And the government is now questioning whether too much touch screen navigation is distracting drivers too much from the road.  It's a valid question.

And most auto makers still offer basic models that do not include the touch screen.

That way you don't waste your money.

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