After complaints, Volkswagen will ditch capacitive steering wheel controls

Recent VWs have shipped with capacitive multifunction steering wheels, and they're bad.

auto, car, cars, volkswagen, after complaints, volkswagen will ditch capacitive steering wheel controls

/ The offending wheel in question.Volkswagen

It can sometimes feel like the arc of progress only moves in one direction and that it’s always making our lives worse. As car makers get turned on to technology—pushed by customers begging to see smartphone-like features in their cars—we’ve been foisted some clangers, like pure touchscreen interfaces or not-very-secure connected cars. Which is why it’s refreshing to see an OEM admit it got something wrong.

In this case, I’m talking about Volkswagen Group and its not-great multifunction steering wheel. First introduced with the Mk. 8 Golf, but also seen on the new electric ID.4 and ID. Buzz, VW kept basically the same control layout for the new wheel. But instead of having discrete buttons for each of those functions—adaptive cruise control on the left spoke, media playback on the right spoke—the controls are now capacitive touch panels with some haptic feedback.

Now, multifunction steering wheels are a good thing in the 21st century, because they let you control things like media playback or even the entire infotainment system without taking your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel. And in a car that uses a touchscreen infotainment system, that’s a huge boon.

The problem is, the new controls just aren’t as good as actual buttons: It’s too easy to activate a control you didn’t mean to if you’re turning the wheel and part of your hand touches it in the wrong place.

It’s also not a problem unique to VW; both BMW and Mercedes have moved to capacitive touch multifunction steering wheels for their new EVs, like the iX or EQS. And as with VW, neither new wheel is as pleasant to use as the ones they replace.

But VW is going to ditch the new design. Thomas Schäfer, VW Passenger Cars’ CEO, announced on LinkedIn that, following customer feedback—presumably almost entirely negative—VW will bring back the old design with real buttons.

Now that’s actual progress.

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