Home » Former Apple Chief Designer Sees Physical Buttons Returning To Cars

Former Apple Chief Designer Sees Physical Buttons Returning To Cars

Morning Dump Apple Designer Buttons

The original Apple iPhone’s chief designer could see more physical buttons returning to cars, Dodge unveils a special Hellcat Redeye, Tesla gets sued again. All this and more in today’s issue of The Morning Dump.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

Former Apple Chief Designer Sees A Need For Buttons In Cars

buttons in cars apple
Photo credit: Thomas Hundal

Iconic modern Apple products are marked by minimalism, although the chief designer of many of those products recently expressed a need for physical controls in cars. Former Apple Chief Designer Sir Jony Ive spoke at The Code Conference alongside Apple CEO Tim Cook and businessperson Laurene Powell Jobs about the latter’s late husband’s legacy, among other things. The discussion, led by journalist Kara Swisher, moved to the topic of multi-touch interfaces and even lightly touched on physical buttons in cars, as Australian automotive website Drive pointed out, writing:

“I do think there are fabulous affordances with interfaces like, for example, multi-touch [the technology allowing for pinching and zooming on phone screens],” Ive said.

“But we do remain physical beings. I think, potentially, the pendulum may swing a little to have interfaces and products that will take more time and are more engaged physically.”

When the panel’s moderator – journalist Kara Swisher – asked if Ive was referring to cars, the former Apple design boss responded, “for example”.

I haven’t watched the conference, but it’s worth noting that The Verge‘s live blog of the conference includes a slightly different quote from Ives – a response to Swisher asking for his thoughts on how things are currently designed. The quote reads:

“We’re so preoccupied with what we’re wrestling with,” Jony says, deferring. “There are fabulous affordances with interfaces like multitouch. But we do remain physical beings, and the pendulum might swing a little to have interfaces that are more tactile and more engaging physically… there are examples where the interface is driven inappropriately by multitouch.”


Kara asks Jony  how he’d design a car and he laughs. “You know I can’t answer that.”

While touchscreens do have a place in phones, it’s generally not a good idea to operate a phone while driving. Physical buttons and knobs allow for muscle memory to take over, keeping the driver focused on the road. It’s more than just good cabin design, it’s good safety practice.

[Editor’s Note: I have to say that I love the buttons in my older cars. A knob for volume, a rocker to change the channel, a rotary dial for vent selection, an adjacent rotary dial for the temperature setting, a slider for dome lights – these buttons all look and feel different, and that means pressing them doesn’t require me to look away from the road. Some automakers have HVAC and volume/channel-change physical buttons, and some even have them on the steering wheel. Plus, many have voice-command. But there’s still quite a heavy reliance on the touchscreen these days; some of that makes sense, since infotainment systems these days have so many functions that they’d require scores of physical buttons to operate, but still. I agree with Ives that automakers could work to step up their physical-button games. -DT]

The Dodge Charger King Daytona Pays Tribute To An Icon

Dodge Charger King Daytona
Photo credit: Dodge

For the fifth runout special edition Dodge muscle car, the American brand is bringing back the King Daytona nameplate. I know what you’re thinking, “What on earth is a King Daytona?” Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

The original King Daytona was a 1969 Charger Daytona owned by drag racer Big Willie Robinson, a man who used racing as a way to build community after the Watts Riots. He has a pretty incredibly story and it’s worth writing a full article on him at some point. For now, just know that he was an absolute icon of west-coast drag racing.

Fast forward to 2022, and the new King Daytona is a Charger Hellcat Redeye Widebody with the wick turned up to 807 horsepower, a pretty awesome number. On the outside, the King Daytona is extremely orange. Go Mango paint complemented by orange brake calipers keeps things loud, while a black tail stripe and satin chrome wheels add just the right amount of pop. On the inside, the orange accenting continues in the stitching and on a special badge in the console.

Like other Last Call special edition models, the Charger King Daytona is more of an appearance pack than a performance pack. However, it pays tribute to a really cool icon of motorsport and I can totally dig it for that reason alone. If this is a Charger that speaks to you, get ready to hunt. Dodge is only making 300 examples of the Charger King Daytona, with allocation to be announced at a later date.

Tesla Sued Over Alleged False Advertising

0x0 Model3 01
Photo credit: Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

Drivers continue to fight back against Tesla’s wild claims relating to advanced driver assistance systems. Reuters reports that a plaintiff is suing the carmaker, claiming the company made false promises of autonomous vehicles.

Briggs Matsko, the named plaintiff, said Tesla did this to “generate excitement” about its vehicles, attract investments, boost sales, avoid bankruptcy, drive up its stock price and become a “dominant player” in electric vehicles.

“Tesla has yet to produce anything even remotely approaching a fully self-driving car,” Matsko said.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco seeks unspecified damages for people who since 2016 bought or leased Tesla vehicles with Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features.

Considering Tesla’s claims regarding solving the problem of autonomous driving, this lawsuit could have some proper legs. Calling Tesla’s bluff has been a long time coming and should the suit proceed, it could result in compensation for a vast number of Tesla owners.

The Great Build-Out Of Charging Infrastructure Hastens

Ev Charging Stations Sign
Photo credit: Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine

Automotive News reports that several states’ plans for implementing EV charging infrastructure have already been approved for funding under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program.

Plans submitted by Arkansas, California, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin are among those approved. D.C. and Puerto Rico plans also are approved.

“Thanks to the commitment of state leaders who worked hard to develop EV charging networks that work for their residents, we were able to approve these state charging plans quickly and ahead of schedule,” said Stephanie Pollack, acting administrator for the Federal Highway Administration. “We are reviewing the remaining plans and are on track to finish the process by our target date of Sept. 30, if not sooner.”

The program aims to help fund the implementation of 500,000 EV charging stations across America by 2030. With new EVs announced in a seemingly constant stream, the right time to crack on with infrastructure development is now. Kudos to federal and state government for moving quickly on this issue so far.

The Flush

Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. It’s Thursday, which means that the weekend is right around the corner. While it seems like a surge in EV market share could happen any year now, I’d like to know when you plan on adding an electric vehicle to your fleet. Personally, I don’t see myself picking up an EV for quite some time. I mostly rely on public transit around town and use my car for road trips and other events where I want to drive rather than be stuck in urban traffic. Because of my unique use case, I don’t see an EV fitting in with my needs until something with heaps of range ends up suitably depreciated.

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82 Responses

  1. Ives understands. . . . . . . . . Look – this is easy . . . . In critical moments, touching and pinching and navigating layer after layer of sub-menu’s – – visually confirming that I’ve “navigated” to the appropriate sub-menu is a DISTRACTION from what’s going on out the windscreen. OR – I can reach over to a switch and flip it without the need for immediate visual confirmation. Think “g” forces in various directions. Think vibration. I want to know the status of a sub-system – – – I can glance at a switch or illuminated indicator OR – (once again) navigate through menu after sub menu – – to understand whether the MCAS system is running amok OR not. Give me switches in the cockpit of my vehicle any day. Those “designers” who deem otherwise while sitting comfortably in their cubicles and “imagine” otherwise – have never been in command of a vehicle when the dung has hit the fan.

  2. What??? You mean to tell me that your average driver does not enjoy diving into 12 sub menus with 14 screen taps just to change the airflow for their AC?..Shocking, I tell ya!

    1. “Just set it to ‘auto,’ it works great for me,” say most people. No, damn it, I want my car to do what I tell it to and to not do anything I don’t tell it to do (lock and unlock the doors, jerk the steering wheel to keep me where it thinks I should be in a lane, etc.). The most efficient way to do that is a twist of the knob without even looking. Even the worst GM rental cars I used to be able to figure out the basics before I left the airport. Haven’t rented in a few years but I can imagine a fist through a screen trying to turn on the A/C now.

      Don’t even get me started about those kids on my lawn.

  3. When will I buy an EV? Likely the next time I replace my daily. Quite honestly, I planned to do it in 2018 but there was a decided lack of affordable basic EVs at the time. Deciding to stay fiscally responsible, I instead managed to get a new 2018 Ford Fiesta ST out the door for under $20k (in CA, no less). I’m pretty confident those dollars I saved can buy a lot of gas since I only drive the car about 7000 miles per year and let’s be real, the FiST has been a boatload of fun. I do know an electric car with a reliable 200 miles of range will work beautifully for me as the Fiesta has never been more than 150 miles from my house. I have a Chevy Suburban for roadtripping that you’ll figuratively pry from my cold, dead hands, so range anxiety won’t be a big thing for me. I also have lots of solar panels and at some point plan to put in a home battery system and upgrade the electrical service and panel.

    I’m hoping to get another 8-10 years of driving fun from the Fiesta and I fervently hope by that time there will be some pretty decent choices for an affordable daily EV.

  4. When do I plan to add an electric vehicle? 2017 Bolt, already done. I got it as a commuter, and now it is our primary vehicle. Other than the complete disaster of dealing with GM for recall and other work, it has been great- regular maintenance, other than tires, for 70000 miles has been less than $50 total. When everyone was complaining about gas prices earlier this year, we did a 1000 mile trip for about $32 in fuel (250 kWh, averaged about 13 cents/kWh over the trip, which is what we pay at home, unless we take it down the hill to the 8 cent/kWh public L2 charger). Weekend trip to camp by Independence pass- 250 miles back and forth a few times over the continental divide at 12000 feet- 50 kWh, and about $5 to charge once home. It has already likely paid for about 1/3 of it’s purchase cost in fuel and maintenance savings, and if it hits 200,000 miles without any major issues, will have paid for itself at that point.

    It’s not as fun to drive double the speed limit on windy mountain roads as my old Audi was, but those days are mostly over with a carsick prone toddler in the back seat. Every automatic ICE car I’ve driven since has felt terrible, the wife even sold her BMW since she hardly ever drove it, as she liked driving the Bolt more.

    1. Is that offer with the whole pound cake and live tarantula still on the table? Because I still have $5 to chip in towards the $30 you wanted to take that up.

  5. A daily a 2017 Volt for a 110km round trip commute. Costs me about 2 bucks a day to charge and I put 25l of gas a month.

    Doing math, with today’s gas prices, that’s $40CDN/month to drive 2200km. I ain’t complaining.

    Helps offset the my gas pig 2012 Acadia.

    1. Put this in America math or at least note power usage and electric costs. Otherwise this is just useless. If you get electricity at less than half of what I do my cost is more than double. I can’t figure this out from your Comments.

        1. And if only the cost of electricity wasn’t like airfares. My neighbor pays a different rate, my mom pays a different rate. There is no way to ascertain your cost of electricity by using a simple metric to American conversion rate. The fact you think it is that simple makes me think you have no idea what electricity costs. FYI my electricity rates are based on kwh so metric. I pay for delivery and 8.6 cents per kwh. So what do you pay?

      1. [extreme dripping sarcasm voice]

        If only there was some sort of useful tool on the internet where you could parse out the conversions from metric measurements to units that you are more familiar with.

        1. Electric rates in America are based on kwh my friend. And the 10 idiots who don’t think the cost of electricity matters or will more than triple with mandatory EVs. Just think before you post people. Electricity rates can differ like airline ticket rates.

  6. Probably buying an EV in about 24 months. The models I’m interested in are still in the pipeline. My current vehicles are paid off and mostly reliable. That said buying an EV would save me a barrelful of money on gas. Between commute and recreation I drive a lot in my region. A 300 mile range EV would let me do 90% of my yearly driving charging at home.

  7. As apartment renters, we’d love to buy electric and it would make a lot of sense for our family and driving habits, but sadly we don’t have a reliable way to charge an EV.

    Not knowing when we can buy a home, it sure when we could ever buy one, unless the infrastructure improves and advances to the point of charging an EV with similar convenience to an ICE car.

  8. My next daily, which likely won’t be until 2028 or so, will probably be electric. Hopefully there’s more choice by then that I can get a ‘regular’ car that happens to be electric powered. I want a fairly traditional looking hatchback. I love the look of that Hyundai Ioniq 5, but would prefer a European car, so maybe by then I can replace my Clubman with an electric Clubman.

  9. This in one of those “No shit, Sherlock” headlines. I say it all the time: touchscreens and (especially) menus and sub-menus are incompatible with safely operating a vehicle. The NHTSA should explicilty update their rules to make them illegal.

    If some yahoo wants to use their touchscreen on their phone while they’re driving, and they cause an accident, that likely cannot be prevented. They should be charged or sued accordingly. But auto manufacturers should not be enabling/encouraging this behavior.

    The common things drivers need on a regular basis tend to be physical controls on the stalk or steering wheel already: volume control and track/radio station selection for music, cruise control settings, turn signal stalk, wiper controls, and in some cases, a way to scroll through different gauges/readings that might on the display behind the steering wheel: current cruising range or fuel efficiency, outside temp, engine temp, tire pressure, etc.

    Climate controls, and any redundant media controls on the dash should be single usage (i.e. not combined and certainly not a menu on a touchscreen) buttons or levers or something for not only passengers who may want to change something, but also for the driver, in the event that something on the wheel is not working.

    Things like auto braking, auto cruise, auto headlights, etc, should only be allowed to be set when the car is not moving, and I can see why those should be in a menu, because that’s too many buttons to put on a dash. Ideally, these sorts of things should be set to the driver’s preference (and a second driver as well) once and stay that way, barring some sort of electrical issue that resets to the default ‘on’. (Of course, the default for these should be off, but that’s a different complaint of mine).

    If someone isn’t using Carplay or AA and wants to use the built in nav, I’ve observed that most systems already don’t allow users to enter a location unless the car is in park. This might be the only case-usage that makes sense for a touchscreen (a digital keyboard), because scroll-wheel entry is time consuming and an old style touch-tone phone keypad is never going to be a thing again. I’d argue, though, that most people use their phones. Or, in my case, my far more accurate and up to date Garmin GPS unit I use for hiking and cycling. I mount that instead of a phone. My phone is plugged in and on mute in the center armrest/storage.

  10. If something like a Ford F150 Lightning is available in 5 or 6 years at a reasonable price I would say 5-6 years. I wanted the hybrid F150 but the pricing on one was insane, so I opted for a Ram 1500 with etorque which has really impressed me so far even though it’s not a real hybrid. It replaced my 09 Sierra that got maybe 13mpg if I was lucky. Sorry small car folks, I actually use trucks for what they are made for besides hauling the family around. My area has no charging infrastructure though because Southeast Ohio is managed by morons who won’t make any effort to get one until it’s too late. So, if electric hasn’t caught on by then maybe I’ll finally get that F150 Powerboost after all.

    Probably not a very popular take but I think hybrid vehicles, both plugin and non-plugin, make a ton of sense in rural areas such as mine. Especially during this transition period to what appears to be Electric only.

    1. Yeah I think a PHEV makes a ton of sense for a ton of people. I too wish the Powerboost wasn’t priced in the stratosphere. But it’s academic, they aren’t available, so it might as well be a Lightning.
      A BEV works for me, I am anticipating buying a new car in 2025 so hopefully supply is back up and I can get a Lightning then.

  11. Wanted to buy an ICE-mobile in 2020, but that whole worldwide pandemic got in the way. Next purchase will definitely not be an EV, because range anxiety isn’t going away until the charger network gets built out (in 8-10 years?). My Pops drove a 280Z for years, and that new Z might be in my future if I don’t have to pay MSRP + the dealer’s yacht payment that month!

  12. Re: Buttons

    If this is a shock to anyone in the industry they need to walk themselves out the door (perhaps with a handler because they must be blind). One of the reasons we settled on the vehicle we did (an XT4) and not another from the same manufacturer (an XT5) is because there were actual tactile buttons for much of the features. It’s maybe one or twice a week that I ever actually have to use the touch screen (which I avoid to prevent smudges/glare).

    Cadillac honestly baffled me with their cars in the mid 2010’s. They had a center stack that appeared to be suitable for buttons, but used what felt like capacitive touch points. Sure there was topology to it that let you find what you were looking for, but there was no tactile feedback to actually let you know you struck home. And just like touch screens they used gloss surfaces that smudged up and looked terrible after a little use. So in our case we were replacing a 2012 SRX (the last year before they went to the capacitive buttons) and looked past a XT5 because of that horrible design decision; despite the fact my wife loved her SRX and the XT5 was by and large a direct continuation of it.

    1. You’re right but fail to separate computers Industry from cars Industry. Nerds don’t drive and want unwieldy tech only they can use. Car drivers want car easy to use tech. That’s why this is all kinds of messed up.

      1. You know that a “nerd” is anyone so into a subject that they master every minutiae of it obsessively, right? Even, get that, customising and tinkering with their favourite “thing”, and reading specialized, niche publications.
        We’re all car nerds, my friend! You are ONE OF US!

        1. Okay by your definition we are. But I think nerd definition is pretty much a tech fan base. Now cars no but entertainment screens yes. Now granted upon thinking about it sports stats guys are called nerds but not the players. By your comment I do need to rethink it further.

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