Here’s What Happened When I Confronted Volvo’s Head Designer About The Company’s Egregious Decision To Require A Touchscreen Button To Open The EX90’s Glovebox

Volvo Touchglove

You may recall last month when I railed, loudly and with a healthy spray of rage-saliva, about the horror that was the Cadillac Lyriq’s choice to have the glovebox open via a button on the touchscreen, buried within a menu. This is, of course, an absolutely abominable practice, one that’s also employed by Tesla and a few others. Nobody really wants this —at least no rational person with any ability to, you know, think — and yet it exists, and not only does it exist, it appears to exist on the otherwise lovely new Volvo EX90 that we wrote about yesterday. When I was in the car and noticed that the only ways to open the glove box were via an insipid icon on a touchscreen or, barring that, a crowbar, I realized I had to do something. So, I hunted down Volvo’s Global Head of design and demanded answers.

That Global Head of Design and User Experience is Robin Page, and he’s an extremely good sport to indulge me in this, and I should mention that yesterday I spoke with him about the EX90’s amazing headlamp design, so I didn’t just berate the poor man. I mean, I sort of did here, so you can watch:

Hm. Okay, it’s good that the icon is always there (even if that icon looks like a file folder or something) and I suppose there are a lot of customers who have deluded themselves into thinking that they want every point of interaction to be via an icon on a touchscreen, even something as basic as opening a glove box door, which has worked fine for decades with a simple latch that doesn’t require any power and isn’t dependent on software and can be used at any point with the car on or off and has never caused trouble for anyone, ever.

But now, in some focus groups, some people seem to have suggested that they’d like to open the fucking glove box via a screen. You know, like an idiot would. It’s not Robin’s fault, I suppose. It’s entirely possible people were dazzled by the magic of something on-screen having a direct effect in the physical world, like how my expression changes when someone texts me about what a jackass I am.

As my fellow Autopian David Tracy reminded me, people don’t always make good decisions, or even rational ones, and deep down, I know this, especially when it comes to cars. Cars are not rational, and they never have been, and that’s what makes them wonderful. But usually that irrationality comes out as wanting something with far more power than you can ever use, or picking a car because it seems to have a friendly face, or getting something that could tow the Lincoln Memorial, even if you’ll never do that.

But irrational choices made that actively make owning a car worse? Like being only able to access the important stuff in your glove box via one of the most complex components of your car? I can’t, I just can’t.

[Editor’s Note: I once wrote an entire article about how the Rivian R1T wooed me with its pointless electronic features. A center console with an electric switch? Totally silly, but somehow it gave the truck a futuristic, tech-y vibe. I tried resisting the lure of this clearly-backwards-step in center console functionality, but the tech geek in me was too weak. So yes, this stuff isn’t rational. -DT]

Again, the EX90 has so many impressive traits and I think Robin Page did an excellent job, overall. But the touchscreen glovebox release is a scourge, and must be called out, anywhere it rears its stupid little head.

Please, carmakers. Don’t do this.

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148 Responses

  1. The thing about focus groups is that all the data comes from people who attend focus groups. Think about who spends their time in those, those are not the brightest people.

  2. To fair this isnt a big deal. It’s not like anyone is going to die.
    That said, why would anyone approve something so obviously dumb?How does someone NOT know it’s bad??

    1. It’s probably because they pitched the design as “sleek” and “the future” and that it would allow them to save money on fitting the glovebox with a manual latch. Both the marketing department and the bean counters rejoiced.

    2. sometimes it makes you wonder: there must have been a big meeting with bunch of people who went to college before it all sees public light… but no. seems like nobody told this idiot that making glove box button on the screen is clearly a stupid idea.

      is there a manual latch somewhere? what is battery dies?

    3. Someone very easily could die from this. “I need a secure place for my epipen/glucamed. Glove box seems like a good idea.” Then they’re in an accident, power fails, and they can’t get at it.

    1. Next year it will have a screen on the glovebox like the smart refrigerators so you CAN see inside or through the app. The app will order more EpiPen’s when yours are about to expire like ordering more milk. How could this go wrong?!

  3. IT IS ABOUT MONEY. Clearly. One less latch, one less mechanical component, much cheaper to make a smooth piece of plastic than one with a notch in it. They can BS all they like about touch screen this and our customers like that. I am their next generation of customer and I hate this crap! I was in an MG ZS the other day and it was all touch screen with these little physical rocker switches, I couldn’t operate the damn thing. I’m 35! I was working in the phone shop when the iPhone launched! I am the target market and I like the physical buttons in my car! Its not a smart phone, its a car! The two are different for f&(#s sake!

    1. But you still need a latch! Something has to hold the lid closed when not in use and then release it when the “user” wants to get into the glove box. All the mechanical components are still there except an actuator on the surface of the glove box door.

    2. I’m not convinced the touchscreen latch is cheaper. Sure, it costs nothing to put an icon on the screen. And you don’t need to put a button on the trim. But there’s still a latch. A latch you’ve got to run a wire to, and have some electromechanical bit like a solenoid operate to open. Can’t be significantly cheaper. But you don’t have to listen to the interior designer whinging about how a button will interrupt the sleek flow of the trim, and ruin the whole effect, and it’ll be your fault when the car fails on the market and the company goes bust. And it does give you another “look how high tech we are!” bit, though aren’t we getting tired of those?

  4. I don’t know, I push a button in my car and my garage door opens. I kind of like that feature. Maybe we should think of our glove boxes as tiny little garages 🙂

  5. I bet the glove box still starts to squeak and rattle after the first 60km. Only solution is to have a rag and shut it over the rag. Happens on every single car I have owned.
    Asked a Citroën designer about it once and he just went blank and hid behind the flowers for the rest of the evening.

  6. One other thing — the design of the icon.
    My guess is they gave the brief to a 14 year old “work experience” kid, and the just copied it from the photocopier screen using a mobile phone while no one was looking.
    That is why they have to write “glovebox” underneath.
    Is it even refrigerated?

  7. This is a great example of how to NOT perform user research. You can put together people that want to design a car i pretty every freaking way possible, that is not to say that this is correct. If you are to design a new kindergarten, you should look for the needs that the kids have, not let them do the design themselves.

    In this case, it is rather surprising that Volvo would do this, especially as there are more than one scenario in which you would want open the glovebox to reach something during driving. A solution with a button makes this task so much more visually distracting.

  8. Definitely a deal breaker for me. As a Boomer, I open the glovebox at least 50% of the time with the ignition OFF to get my gloves or owner’s manual (who reads that while driving?), or to remove it to change the cabin air filter. If it works with the ignition off, then it’s another drain on the battery.

  9. 1.”has never caused trouble for anyone, ever” Not true; my glovebox latch did break on my MINI and I had to go to great pains to get one without being raped by BMW.
    2.It was still just replacement of the glovebox door and not replacing the latch/door and re-booting/re-programming the latch control unit to work with the new latch/door.

  10. what the fukc is wrong with mechanical solution and precision. Honestly the way my glove box closes in my bmw is almost hypnotizing, such a precision, click, latch, machanically perfect it makes the movement a joy opposed to the stupid screen button. i think in the future buttonless will mean cheap…

  11. I *am* their customer demographic.

    I own a 2015.5 Volvo XC70 T6 Platinum, and I’m in the market for a EV very very soon.

    Give me a damn latch to get in my glovebox.

    Enough putting shit inside touchscreens.

  12. You can tell he agrees that this is dumb just by his expression the moment you bring it up. But he is bound by his programming not to harm The Corporation, just like Robocop and his Fourth Directive.

  13. This and all touchscreens will age horribly, and be a nightmare for junkyard dogs in years to come!
    I can’t imagine how that would work. … I need parts for the glovebox, let’s bring a battery pack, oops user not recognized! FAIL! I need the doors to open manually! I get frustrated walking through a junkyard already, just trying to imagine the future is frying my brain.

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