back to article I could throttle you right about now: US Navy to ditch touchscreens after kit blamed for collision

The US Navy is ditching touchscreens and going back to physical throttles after an investigation into the USS John S McCain collision partly blamed poor design of control systems for the incident. The first throttles will be fitted to DDG-51 class destroyers from next summer. Contracting for the new kit is already under way …

  1. AMBxx Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Touch screens

    Can we ban them in cars too? Touch screens have no proper feedback so dreadful UI if you're trying to do something else (drive a car) at the same time.

    1. jgarbo

      Re: Touch screens

      Bring back the knob and the slider! And the big Red Stop button.

      1. Paul Herber Silver badge

        Bring back the knob

        ... often to be found driving the car ...

      2. Ahosewithnoname

        Re: Touch screens

        Always been standard fitment in Audis and BMWs

      3. Bruce Ordway

        Re: Touch screens

        Where I used to work, they started replacing discrete controls/switches with touch screens around 1998. Management liked that this would reduce cost and save console space.

        Operators were cool to the idea from the start.

        To managements credit, they did listen to operators before deploying changes. As a result, traditional controls were retained for many of the functions that users requested.

        I think most of engineering went along with touch screens since we all liked the new toys at first.

        But not so much after we had logged enough hours dealing with technical problems in the field.

    2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Re: Touch screens

      This is what I love about my cheap Mitsubishi Space Star: NO TOUCH ANYWHERE! AC, Airflow etc etc - all knobs and a slider blind could find. And a real key to start instead of that start-stop nonsense.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Touch screens

        It's all very well insisting on air-con controls designed for blind drivers - but I feel that money would be better spent on driving controls for said blind drivers first...

        1. BebopWeBop

          Re: Touch screens

          Well said - there are a lot of them....

        2. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

          Re: @I ain't Spartacus - "driving controls for said blind drivers"

          isn't that what the little bumps on the steering wheel are for? Braille instructions?

        3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Touch screens

          driving controls for said blind drivers first

          .. as well as teaching them that there are two-wheeled motorised vehicles using the road too..

          (OldestBrother had his bright-red bike with extra lights totalled by a driver that pulled out in front of him. Post -accident the immortal words "I didn't see you" were uttered. Maybe the driving lessons/tests should focus on teaching people to look for what is there rather than teaching them to look for a car coming..)

          1. Chris Parsons Bronze badge

            Re: Touch screens

            I think everyone should have to ride a bike before they're allowed in a car, they might learn something.

            1. nijam Silver badge

              Re: Touch screens

              > I think everyone should have to ride a bike before they're allowed in a car, they might learn something.

              Yes, how to be an arrogant and obstructive, since cyclists seem to get the hang of that skill long before other road users manage to pick it up.

        4. Jaybus

          Re: Touch screens

          "money would be better spent on driving controls for said blind drivers first"

          Disagree. Most people who truly cannot see to drive, well, don't. Stupid actions whilst driving often give the impression that the driver must be blind. Instead of an eye test, perhaps we would benefit more from an IQ test.

      2. Cavehomme_

        Re: Touch screens

        I've got the this car too, it's called the Mirage in the UK and USA though. Great little car and none of this autocrap stuff! Yet, still well equipped for a low cost car.

      3. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Touch screens

        "And a real key to start instead of that start-stop nonsense"

        Actually, turning the key to start the ignition is a relatively new feature in cars, introduced in the 50s and not gaining widespread adoption until the 60s. Cars with starter motors initially had a push-button starter that was activated by a key (My grandad's MG worked like this). I guess that before that it was just a button with no key at all.

        Plus, I find something strangely satisfying about the car springing to life at the push of a button rather than the turn of a key. Keyless entry/ignition is of course extremely practical, I'm not completely sure about security. But if your complaint against keyless entry is security, keep in mind that physical car locks were by no means more secure than electric/electronic ones* - it's just that as IT people we're more aware of fails in electric/electronic ones.

        If by "start-stop nonsense" you mean the 'stop-start' systems that cut the ignition when the car is stopped, and start again on pressing the clutch / releasing the brake, then I agree they are pretty useless. many times they cut power just at the moment you need it, and they are in no way more eco-friendly (since catalytic converters work optimally at high temperatures, and as soon as an engine is idle for more than a few seconds the exhaust cools down sufficiently that restarting releases more exhaust fumes than you save with the short time switched off)

        *At one car ferry I used regularly in the 80s and 90s, folk locking their keys in the car by accident was a quite frequent occurence. The ferry staff could unlock most cars in nothing flat.

        1. Mike 16

          Re: Start Button

          My personal recollection of a "button to start" includes that the "button" was more like a small pedal, and that it not only closed a rather hefty set of contacts, but shoved the starter pinion into engagement with the flywheel.

          Yes, I'm old, but the vehicle was a bit older than I was, when I first drove it. It had been made slightly before there were _any_ electronic stored program digital computers in the world.

          1. Schultz

            That's nothing...

            I once cranked a car alive. Remember that crank tool you insert through the hole in the bonnet? Well, it was an ancient car back then - and French. They must have been the last to produce those cranks.

            1. Dazed and Confused

              Re: Starting handles

              My first car was made in the UK in the late 60s, it didn't have a starting handle by default, it had an electric starter. But the hole was there in the cross member ready for it and you could go to the parts department at the main dealer and order the parts for hand cranking. When the car was new I imagine no one wanted this, but by the time I bought it, the car was "an old banger" and luxuries like new batteries were beyond my means so I bought gadget that replaced the standard bold on the end of the crank shaft, which would take a starting handle. Luckily my old man had a starting handle so I didn't need to buy one of those. All very useful when the car was having problems starting. Certainly easier than push starting the car.

              The normal electric start was by the ignition key, the switch the key turned then supplied current to a solenoid which switched the high current circuit to drive the starter motor. I've owned several cars where there was a button on the end of the solenoid you could use to manually engage the starter motor circuit. Again useful when your battery is suspect.

              In more recent years I've owned a classic car from the 50s, it didn't have the starter on the ignition key. You'd start the car by using the key to switch the electrics on and then there was a starter button on the dash to engage the starter motor. This again worked via a solenoid, so the starter button supplied a low current to the solenoid which then switched the high current circuit for the motor. I found it quite funny when I bought the modern descendent of the classic and it had reverted back to the 50s practice of having a separate starter button.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Starting handles

                "Certainly easier than push starting the car."

                In the 1970s I had a proper Mini-Moke. To push start you just ran alongside it - then hopped over the side into the driver's seat.

                My Series A Range Rover had a starting handle for its low compression V8 engine. A rugby playing friend once tried to start it that way - and found it was impossible. Going to a project in Sweden I fitted a second battery and a split charger. The starter was the only thing on one of the batteries - and you could do a jump start off itself.

                1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                  Re: Starting handles

                  A rugby playing friend once tried to start it that way - and found it was impossible

                  Even a paltry A-series 1098cc engine in a Morris Minor isn't an easy engine to crank over by the starter handle. Hence my deployment of the morotbike-kickstart method.

                  If you got it wrong the starter handle would spring back and hit you very hard across the shin so I tended to wear my bike boots to do it since they had a nice thick panel on the front..

                  1. Dazed and Confused

                    Re: Starting handles

                    All the cars I've used starting handle on had a cupped bolt on the end of the crankshaft into which you inserted the T of the handle. The had two half turn spirals ending at a flat face. You put the handle into the cup and turned it until the T piece on the end of the handle's shaft was against the flats. Now for the harder work bit, you needed to push against the compression of the engine, it wasn't that hard. The neat bit though is as soon as the engine kicks it spins the crankshaft and therefore the cup and the spirals now force the starter handle straight out with very little turning force, so no broken knee caps. I'm sure there were older versions where the kick back was an issue, I've just been lucky enough to not need to do that.

                    My next car also used to suffer starting problems due to needing a new battery, given the right shove it was easy to start. Even my first wife learned to just park on a slight incline facing uphill. When you needed to start, one foot out of the drivers door and push backwards and the car would start to roll backwards helped by gravity, foot on the clutch, into reverse, blip the clutch and the engine would start.

                    Both approaches just took practice.

                    1. SImon Hobson

                      Re: Starting handles

                      That's all very well as long as nothing goes wrong. BUT, it's not at all hard for the engine to kick back - the spark occurs before top dead centre and so under the right conditions it's possible for the cylinder to fire and kick the engine round the wrong way. If that happens, the starter handle is not thrown out, but is very sharply moved backwards.

                      For that reason, there are some rules about starting with a handle. One of those is that you only ever PULL the handle while the ignition is live - that way, if it kicks back, your fingers can unroll from around the handle. If you are doing the "turn it round and round" lark, or pushing down, then it can kick back and the weakest link is your wrist.

                      So a typical starting procedure is IGNITION OFF, set fuelling according to engine state (eg choke if cold), pull through - that means turning the engine over to draw petrol vapour into the cylinders, and leaving it at the start of a compression stroke. Only then do you turn on the ignition, PULL the handle to turn the engine through a compression stroke - at which point it will hopefully fire and start.

                      Same thing with an aircraft engine. Only ever pull the prop blade and using your finger tips - so that if it kicks back it doesn't break your fingers. You do have the other complication that the prop doesn't "throw out" like a starter handle, so you have to make sure that your hands (and all other body parts) are out of the way before the next blade comes round. This isn't something I've actually had the need to try.

                      1. Dazed and Confused

                        Re: Starting handles

                        Good point about only pulling, I'd forgotten that one, but now you mention it I remember being taught this rule.

                        As others have said make sure your thumb isn't around the other side of the handle of you want to keep them. Like with steering wheels on old cars, clip a curb or some such and the spokes of the steering wheel can smash your thumbs in short order.

                        Likewise I've never had to do it to a plane. The only time I was in a plane which needed hand turning the pilot very insistently said DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING while the guy was near the prop.

                        Starter motors make life so dull what with missing out on all this excitement.

                        The other nice feature of having a starting handle is that when you're working on the engine it provides a very convenient way to turn the engine.

            2. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

              Re: That's nothing...

              Gramps had a Land Rover 1968 model, with the crank feature.

              So if the flattery is flat, you can crank it to life.

            3. Slef

              Re: That's nothing...

              Normally a hole in the bumper!

            4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: That's nothing...

              I once cranked a car alive. Remember that crank tool you insert through the hole in the bonnet?

              Speaking from experience (our Morris Minor was built in 1966 and still has the starter handle attachment in the boot and the corresponding hole in the front) it's not in the bonnet at all but under the front bumper.

              We actually had to use it for a week our so in the mid-90's since the battery was knackered and didn't hold a charge overnight. Once it was started (via the starter handle) it would run quite happily. We got quite good at starting it via the handle - just used a modified motorbike-kickstart method (although the motorbike was a lot less likely to break your shinbone if you did it incorrectly).

              We then replaced the battery and haven't used the handle since.

              1. Medical Cynic

                Re: That's nothing...

                You must keep all your digits on the same side. All 4 fingers and thumb. Otherwise, if it kicks back, you can get a fracture of the base of your thumb. Known as a chauffeur's fracture.

            5. Evil Auditor Silver badge

              Re: That's nothing...

              Citroën in the 80s still had that crank (okay, ancient). I tried once to crank-start it and it was a real pain. Don't even remember if I managed to get it running.

            6. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Mark Ruit

            Re: Start Button

            A 1936 Austin Seven of my acquaintance had a very lage button with very large cables attached to it. There must have been something like a Bendix gear involved because there was no other physical action involved. In operation the whole thing jangled like a set of crazy church bells - you certainly knew it was working.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Touch screens

          "Actually, turning the key to start the ignition is a relatively new feature in cars, introduced in the 50s"

          The Cadallic type 53 introduced in 1916 had a key although I don't know if it was a turnkey for ignition

          Anon because that tidbit came from watching too much Top Gear.

        3. Trollslayer

          Re: Touch screens

          Keyless entry/ignition is a big security problem.

          There is equipment, basically to boxes of electronics, the first which can detect the key in a house if it is near a wall and talk to the second by the car.

          Guess what happens.

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Touch screens

            Keyless entry/ignition is a big security problem

            Which is why our keyless fobs are kept in a nice metal box when not in use.. I like Faraday cages!

          2. Morat

            Re: Touch screens

            I got a new set of tyres last month and while I was sitting in reception I overhead the conversation between a guy who had just picked up his car and the guy who had left the ignition key on the roof so the owner could pick up his car.

            I don't think that keyless entry was very popular by the time the owner had driven 15 miles home and then been unable to re-start his car

        4. Public Citizen

          Re: Touch screens

          It originally required a key on the dashboard to energize the cars electrical system.

          When the key was turned off the battery was air-gap-disconnected from the rest of the cars electrical system.

          It was a later, but not by very many years innovation to have the key fitted with a secondary position to activate a starter solenoid instead of just mashing a foot down on a heavy duty/high current switch.

        5. VulcanV5

          Generation Moron rules the waves. . . and so much else, too.

          Didn't any of the US Navy's 'senior management' (assuming such exists) ever bother to actually try out the touch-screen control system for themselves? Despair could've set in at that stage, rather than later. From El Reg's description, it seems what was installed was a needlessly complicated set-up intended principally to demonstrate the cleverness of the moron who coded it -- as is the case with so much else.

          The other day I wanted to play a single track on an album of MP3s I've compiled over the years from my own collection but no. Apple decided what I wanted to do was open every single home-made album and decant a total of 480 tracks from which to then attempt to find the one I'd already nominated.

          The older I get, the more tired I become of the morons out there who wish me to conform to their way of doing things.

          1. GunJack

            Re: Generation Moron rules the waves. . . and so much else, too.

            This needs up-voting many, many times over.....

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Generation Moron rules the waves. . . and so much else, too.

            "The other day I wanted to play a single track on an album of MP3s [...]"

            A friend bought a new Kia car with an optional extra of an MP3 player that boasted storage for several thousand tracks.

            There was no album hierarchy - so you had to step through a flat directory to get the track you wanted. If you turned the player off - the next time it always started at track 1 again.

          3. JoeCool

            Re: Generation Moron rules the waves. . . and so much else, too.

            Yes! my biggest question from the article: how did this make it past ANY design reviews ?

            I also find it hilarious that almost all of the comments relate the story back to car control design.

            1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

              Re: Generation Moron rules the waves. . . and so much else, too.

              - Design Reviewer: So, you've changed the controls. How is this going to work?

              - Designer: it's got touchscreens, colors, animated diagrams... It's cool!

              - Design Reviewer, shiny eyes: awesome!

              I assume the design reviewers were just from the same moronic generation of designers. Or far from practice.

        6. JoeCool

          Re: Touch screens

          I upvoted because 90% of your post is exactly right. The place I have doubts is the Catalytic converter comment. According to the Internet "The normal operating temperature of a catalytic converter is between 550 and 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit with the optimum temperature being about 806 degrees"

          Point #1, There's no way 1 to 2 minutes of idling is going to reduce the stored heat out of that range, by much.

          Point #2 Stop/Start is primarily about reducing Fuel consumption. Converters are about reducing smog-producing particulates. Converters actually CREATE greeen house gassses.

        7. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

          Re: Touch screens

          Oh no, the auto-stop and auto-start is fine.

          The start-stop nonsense is following: You press the start button for a short time to get electricity, and then you want to turn the car off. If you are on the break (and clutch, if you have one) the car starts. But if you want to turn it off you have to be off the brake - but only with some vendors! Way to many cars force you to do a full start, or even ring an alarm if you hit that button without your foot on the brake.

          As for that old-style start button from a hundred years ago: That would be fine with me, full manual control with classic electric contacts.

      4. Robert Helpmann??

        Re: Touch screens

        And a real key to start instead of that start-stop nonsense.

        You were doing all right up to this point. Push button starting predates key starting by over 45 years. The use of a key fob for authentication took almost another 50 years to come around, but everything old is new again so we are back to push button starting being the norm.


      5. Drew Scriver

        Re: Touch screens

        For safety's sake I try to stick to vehicles were I can indeed find and operate controls blind. Ludicrous to even allow systems that require drivers to divert their attention from their main responsibilities.

        Big turning knobs for climate control, audio volume, etc should be required. By law if necessary.

        1. Jaybus

          Re: Touch screens

          I've come to like the voice controls for climate, audio, nav, etc. I rarely actually use the touchscreen at all. Touchscreen only, I agree, is completely dangerous. I think the voice controls are a bit safer than knobs and sliders, since it doesn't require looking or taking one's hand from the wheel.

    3. Stork Silver badge

      Re: Touch screens

      I follow what you mean, and agree for primary, secondary and to some extent tertiary controls.

      In our current car (Accord 2005), there is a touch screen for controlling navigation (hard to avoid), and finer adjustment of sound and aircon/ventilation. Mostly those are not needed, I just put the aircon on auto and adjust temperature.

      Everything else is unimaginatively placed like in most cars at the time - wonderful!

      OT: Why do cars need electric parking brakes?

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

        Re: Touch screens

        Q: Why do cars need electric parking brakes?

        A: Feck knows and if they do have them why not engage the handbreak when the car is stopped and switched off (Have had numerous cars roll away after an hour into thankfully someones elses car)

      2. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Touch screens

        OT: Why do cars need electric parking brakes?

        Because when I put the handbrake on my wife often can't release it.

        Because it provides a consistent and reliable application of the aforementioned brake when you turn the car off (no half pulling it on, not realising that the cable has stretched, and besides it's cold at the moment and as the day warms up the cable will stretch and release the brake).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Touch screens

          Thats the theory anyway, I do recall the Astra J went back to a "proper" handbrake after lots of them rolled away as the electronic parking brake failed to grip, others wouldn't move as it wouldn't release and IIRC some needed a diagnostic tool to retract the brake piston or some other idiocy....

          Current car is a Dacia Sandero, which will be the last car without a tonne of nanny state junk in Europe - lane assist, Auto braking, speed limiters and other controlling crap....

          Voted remain, but perhaps we'd be better out (also due to article 11 and 13 and the video streaming nonsense they are pushing)

          I'd be more supportive of the idea of leaving if instead we aligned our car standards to the USA......

          Might actually get some interesting cars then....albeit the green fanatics (and their acolytes in parliament) would lose their shit at the concept of anything beyong 1.0 litre 3 cylinder shopping boxes or overpriced and under ranged milk floats.....though the greenies want everyone to walk or cycle everywhere instead....

          less than 2% of world emissions (and dropping year on year) and yet the government either doesn't have the balls to tell them to foxtrot oscar or has engineered this whole "green revolution" to allow them to whack up taxes to "tackle the climate emergency" (which will do the sum of jack squat) and thats without getting on the topic of Caroline Lucas trying to justify sexism on the grounds "we need to tackle the climate emergency NOW and women are less tribal so I'm forming a 10 woman cabinet"

          Even Liz Truss pointed out how sexist her comments were, stereotyping people on the basis of gender, someone else pointed out that her cabinet had no one who was Black or Minority Ethniticity (so unsurpsingly a mirror of XR then....whose entire movement consists of naive white private school kids trying to be rebellious, white serial troublemakers who appear at every rabble, and ageing white "protestors" keen to be "arrested" (instead of sending them to jail which is frankly what they want, just stick them with an order banning them from associating with any protest movement / stop their state pension and garnish their other income - seriously can we not just arrest that muppet Roger Hallam and friends for "corrupting the nations youth by inciting impressionable children to get arrested while he stands back and agitates - the man is an irresponsible coward and utterly shameless in his attempts to subvert democracy)

          1. Anonymous 16

            Re: Touch screens

            2% or not the CO2 emmisions from Industry and our over consumption are wrecking the environment for our generations to come. Our attitude is contributing to melting of polar caps, the consequences of such unchecked damage to the environment would be anything but catastrophic, so please think of others and think of your kids , grandkids and their kids.

            1. Intractable Potsherd

              Re: Touch screens

              "2% or not the CO2 emmisions from Industry and our over consumption are wrecking the environment for our generations to come."

              No, it isn't.

              "Our attitude is contributing to melting of polar caps,"

              They aren't melting. Some areas are showing some signs, but undersea vulcanism is probably the cause.

              " so please think of others and think of your kids , grandkids and their kids."

              I do think of my children and putative grandchildren - I don't want them living a hand-to-mouth existence because human-hating Greens have reduced civilisation to prehistoric levels.

              1. Fred Goldstein

                Re: Touch screens

                Yes, there is melting, and sea level is rising. However, whinging about touch screen or catalytic converters isn't relevant to that. Higher efficiency transport overall would help.

                Of course some folks think electric cars are the answer. But the Tesla is ruled by one giant f'ng touchscreen. And self-driving is another bit where the last 10% will take 90% of the work, if it is even possible.

              2. Stork Silver badge

                Re: Touch screens

                You should check Glacier national park in the US. It probably will have to be renamed in my lifetime

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Touch screens

                  We base the temperature records on less than 100 years of observations, heck the BBC pushed a story about record breaking temperatures amounting to thermageddon and hidden in the story was that this particularly record only started in 1990 something.

                  The planet is warming, but reading RealClimate its noted that the temperature difference between 400 parts per milion CO2 and 600 parts per million CO2 will be less than than between 300 and 400 ppm as its logarithmic scale. The claims about 5C rises are extreme low probability, the strongest potential is something like 2C by 2100.

                  Some of the most alarming claims of 7 or 10 C rises come from claims of 7000ppm, which would take thousands of years to reach, and the claims of thawing permafrost causing runaway climate change is just scaremongering according to several climatologists who have debunked that claim on the basis the life of methane in the atmosphere isn't that long but our own methane emissions are an issue - though that doesn't preclude meat eating, substitute the cows for Kangaroos (who don't produce methane) issued solved that or supplement cattle feed with a compound to counter the methane produced by cattle.

                  Also Hansen has decided on 350 as "safe" but as usual won't explain why and his profile is used to treat his claims as unchallengable, when he's human like the rest of us, has the potential for fallibility and no one should be permitted an unchallangeable position of authority (power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely)

                  I also note that regularly more and more alarmist headlines come out demanding action by 2050, 2030, 2025, 12 months, pushed by the BBC and Guardian but when you read the papers these are low probability outcomes and often outlier papers whose claims are dubious at best and designed to garner newspaper headlines.

                  You want to cut global termparatures - financially incentivise people not to have children or have less children - stabilise the populace at 2 kids per couple, if a couple don't want children ever then give them a tax break. Doing that would be career suicide by any politician, its also a severe infringement on civil liberties and more and more our lives are being policed and controlled and yet its all "for our own good".

                  If politicians were serious about cutting emissions - lead by example - video conferencing, no jollies to 5 or 6 star resorts for "climate conferences" / summits etc, no private planes or helicopter jaunts and thats just for starters. They won't though and thats why 99% of the ideas being touted as greenwashing nonsense - plastic straws that were generally incinerated by many restaurants now replaced by paper straws that have a massive pollution footprint (have you seen the pollution that comes from a paper mill (water and air alone - I've seen and it ain't a good sight) ) pushed by anti plastics groups, many of who with no knowledge of science and of the "big pharma conspiracy", "vaccines cause autism" type bent, the sort convinced that anything "natural" is better than anything synthethised - ignoring that belladonna, nightshide, hemlock and arsenic are all natural and all deadly....and that many antibiotics etc are natural in origin. Removing plastic straws also directly harms the disabled and puts them at risk of dehydration.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Touch screens

              Do foxtrot oscar and perhaps do something useful like going to the major polluters like USA, PRC, Russia etc....oh wait you won't do that as they would do the sensible thing and arrest you for being a pain in the rear.

              sub 2% is a statistical anomaly and in any other realm its discounted as irrelevant....

              Even your unwashed waster mates in XR admit their end goal isn't climate change its subverting democracy to push an anti-capitalist marxist system....many of them openly talk about installing an dictatorship

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Touch screens

              You also ignore the people who cannot process plant based nutrients when you propose a ban on meat eating AND ignore that lots of farmland is wholly unsuitable to cultivating crops and only fit for raising animals on. You also ignore the myriad cultures that have a meat based diet, many of whom have a genetic adaptation towards eating meat and get ill from eating plant based diets (diabetes for starters)

              Some of the greenie rollocks is worse than that pushed by East Germany by miles, even worse than the DPRK...

              1. Stork Silver badge

                Re: Touch screens

                I have to say that you sound very much like someone trying to find reasons for not changing habits.

                I believe that if you can improve something by making minor changes, you should do that. I see that as personal responsibility, which is often touted as a conservative value. The same applies on country level.

                Cutting meat and dairy consumption by 90 percent would benefit the environment and the majority of the western population, even if it is not making peta totally happy.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Touch screens

                  I get sick and I mean physically throwing up from eating plant proteins, I'm allergic to many and severely intolerant to others I literally cannot digest them.

                  You also propose to force this onto the populace whether they want it or not AND while it would amount to an effect of nada, you want to make a difference in terms of climate change then your talking about forcing the USA, Russia, China to wholly deindustrialise. Your also talking implementing draconian population control policies - India's population has more than quadrupled from 300 million in 1950 to 1.3 BILLION today and rising at over 1.1% a year, their per capita emissions might be lower than ours but it wholly ignores the sheer volume of emissions coming from India due to sheer population and their soaring emissions due to industrialisation etc.

                  Population control however doesn't work - see China for why

                  I also note we are exporting vast quantities of older polluting vehicles to 3rd world nations (check Gumtree etc for how many advertisements there are for "we buy cars for export"

                  Where pray tell do you plan to grow the extra crops? All while planting vast quantities of trees, biomass etc to feed the biomass stations that many countries are planning as a fudge to meet carbon targets that are otherwise unobtainable

                  You also fail to note that many breeds of animal if no longer required for food would simply die out (as almost happened to some horse breeds in France or Belgium, till the meat industry took an industry, now the breed has a stable genetic base

                  Again you fail to answer regarding the amount of land thats not suitable for crops and is only useful for raising animals on worldwide and imposing a plant based diet on cultures that have a strong meat eating culture is yet again colonialism - the great and the good deciding what is best for others and trampling all over their culture all to meet whatever is in vogue.

                  Also the reports that push for plant based diets come from Vegan lobbying groups so hardly impartial and whose claims will be biased and deliberately pushing one viewpoint.

                  Bit like Btake giving a presentation on traffic law reform, focus solely on speeding, while ignoring bad driving, poor vehicle condition, badly laid out roads, poor weather conditions, random occurances etc.

                  1. Stork Silver badge

                    Re: Touch screens

                    You read things into my post that are not there. I wrote the majority, thereby implying there could be persons who do not have the option.

                    If we restrict meat production to areas not suitable for crops, that frees up the area required to feed virtually all European pigs. Like almost half of Denmark.

                    As for population and consumption, watch some of Hans Rosing's presentations

          2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: Touch screens

            It's ethnic minority not minority ethnic, and black people *ARE* ethnic minorities.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Touch screens

              Actually, I believe the politically correct term in the UK public service is currently BAME for Black and Asian Minority Ethnic. This is an expansion of the original BME for Black Minority Ethnic. For a short time before BME came into use it was BEM for Black Ethnic Minority. I strongly suspect it got changed to BME when somebody pointed out that BEM was commonly used in pulp SciFi for bug eyed monster.

              Its all bollocks anyway. Cant we just have the term 'people'?

          3. teknopaul Silver badge

            Re: Touch screens

            Brex-o-politico-nonsense-bot you just failed the Turing test.

        2. swm Silver badge

          Re: Touch screens

          When I drove in Vermont winters I never used the hand brake - it would freeze up. Better to leave the car in gear.

          1. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: Touch screens

            Leaving the car in gear is great, until something shorts the starter solenoid (yes, I’ve known it happen).

            No brake will stop a car from moving under the torque from a starter motor.

            1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

              Re: Touch screens

              Leaving a vehicle in gear is great until some idiot gets in and tries to start it without checking for neutral.

              I once worked on top of a mountain, and we had a work vehicle we'd park facing a stone barn, and leave it in gear jic. The area manager would show up every couple of weeks and take the van for an hour or two. Every single time, she would ram it into the stone barn when she turned the key. Eventually one of my co-workers parked it facing out at the top of a steep bank a couple of metres high when she was due. No injuries, we got a new van, and she finally learnt to check.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Touch screens

                Having lived on a hill when learning to drive, I have always left my car in gear when parked. The wife sometimes forgets to check. Fortunately, no damage has been caused. All recent cars we have owned refuse to start unless you have the clutch pedal down.

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Touch screens

            Better to leave the car in gear.

            Or, if it's an auto-box just leave it in Park. Which locks the transmission.

            1. SImon Hobson

              Re: Touch screens

              Until it doesn't !

              I think you'll find loads of videos, I've seen plenty on telly, of cars whizzing round in circles because the owner left it in park with the engine running and no handbrake. Then it's somehow put itself into reverse ...

      3. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Touch screens

        "In our current car (Accord 2005), there is a touch screen for controlling navigation (hard to avoid), and finer adjustment of sound and aircon/ventilation. Mostly those are not needed, I just put the aircon on auto and adjust temperature."

        Our Nissan Qashqai is the same, it's a pretty optimal control system arrived at after decades of evolution. The Tesla smart-screen revolution seems suboptimal to me* , and, I suspect, driven by cost-cutting since each individual switch has to be independently designed, manufactured, assembled and tested, while putting everything in screen / software is cheaper long-term after the upfront screen cost.

        "OT: Why do cars need electric parking brakes?"

        Don't 'need' them, but the electric park brake saves space in the central console where a physical handbrake would otherwise have to be.

        *disclaimer - I've never actually tried it, any one with first-hand experience can surely give better feedback.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Touch screens

          Why is Navigation hard to avoid?

          Are people actually addicted to their GPS now just like their HellPhones?!

          I might GoolgleMaps before leaving home if I haven't been to a place before but I don't need no nanny in the Car.

          1. Def Silver badge

            Re: Touch screens

            The one useful feature of in car navigation systems and maps is being able to see how far ahead the traffic jam you've just encountered stretches, so you can make an informed decision on whether to try and get off at the next exit or not.

            1. Tikimon

              Re: Touch screens

              The MOST useful feature of in in-car navigation systems is being able to see where the hell you are WHEN YOU CAN'T GET A PHONE SIGNAL. I bought a 4WD Toyota specifically because of the nav system with CD-ROM based maps. When you're roaming steep dirt mountain roads, you rarely have a phone signal and GPS isn't all that easy to lock onto either. The inertial navigation backs up the GPS and I can at least find my way back.

              On my motorcycle, I use one so I don't have to squint at street signs and look for street numbers on buildings. I can pay attention to my driving and avoiding all the 4-wheel drivers trying to kill me.

          2. BuckeyeB

            Re: Touch screens

            My wife is addicted to GPS. She uses it to go places she's been for a long time. I try to only use it the first time to a new place and that's only if it's not near somewhere else I know. Maybe it's because I have a good sense of direction and hers is crap, but I believe that relying on it too much will just force me to rely on it. People can't use their damn mind any more. How many of you can't remember your spouse's phone number? I still remember the phone number I had growing up and that was 5 numbers ago. I know that age can affect things and writing things down becomes more important. But people can't be fussed to use their head any more. I guess they need to save that brain power to remember all the Hollywood drama instead.

            1. 96percentchimp

              Re: Touch screens

              I often run my GPS when I'm going to places where I know the route, because I don't know the how the traffic and other conditions will change as I'm driving there. If there's an alternative route available, or I'm going to be delayed, I'm aware of it.

              As for your old phone number, you know it because you probably had to dial it manually, and those of everyone else you wanted to call. You learned by repetition. Today the numbers are all in your phone's contacts, you put them in once and then you select them by name. Your phone hasn't reduced your memory capacity, people aren't getting more stupid - you're just not conducting the process that commits numbers to memory. I know my own phone number because I have to enter it on forms, the same reason I know my passport and NI numbers.

              What people are still doing is talking bollocks about how the world is all going to hell and the latest new-fangled thing is making everyone stupid. They've probably been doing that since the first caveman started drawing on walls.

            2. holmegm

              Re: Touch screens

              I use GPS on the phone for virtually all trips. It has way more information about current traffic conditions than I do. The odd edge cases where it is wrong are *far* outweighed by the benefit of being steered around a pileup before I am in it.

        2. vtcodger Silver badge

          Re: Touch screens

          "but the electric park brake saves space in the central console where a physical handbrake would otherwise have to be."

          Most US cars in the 1950s and before had bench, not bucket, front seats. No easy way to have a mechanical centerline parking brake with a bench seat. I may misremember, but as I recall, the parking brake back then was usually controlled either by a handle attached to the steering column or by a foot pedal (adjacent to the clutch?)

          1. Dazed and Confused

            Re: Foot operated parking brakes

            The Mrs' 2010 Merc's parking brake is foot operated, probably as they sold lots in the US where this is expected.

          2. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge

            Re: Parking brake, was Touch screens

            My '59 Chevrolet Parkwood ("Gull Wing") station wagon had a foot operated parking brake, against the left hand side of the footwell. There was a pull handle to release it, so you couldn't let it off gently, it came off with a mighty bang, so you had to have good hand/foot co-ordination, else you could roll back into the vehicle behind. I later replaced the three on the tree* with a sludge pumper**, and that made hill starts a lot easier.

            * Three speed column shift manual gearbox **Two speed Powerglide automatic transmission.

          3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Touch screens

            or by a foot pedal (adjacent to the clutch?)

            All the French cars I've ever had have had this method (the Citroen XM used a foot pedal to put on the handbrake and a push-latch on the console to release it)

        3. BuckeyeB

          Re: Touch screens

          I never use a parking brake. I don't park on steep hills necessitating them. Park is good enough for most hills anyway.

      4. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Touch screens

        > Why do cars need electric parking brakes?

        Because electric parking brakes are vastly cheaper to build than old-fashioned mechanical ones, and they sound pleasingly high-tech.

        (Any stupid technical decision can usually easily be explained by "because it's cheaper".)

      5. 0laf

        Re: Touch screens

        OT: Why do cars need electric parking brakes?

        They don't but interior cabin designers like not having the handle to get in the way.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Touch screens

          I suppose without a hand brake you can go back to the old bench seat arrangement in the front, get three passengers in with the driver!

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Why do cars need electric parking brakes?

        Lots of reasons why they're better

        Safety - impossible to release without being in possession of the 'key' and having your foot on the brake (unless engine started, in gear and other conditions for 'drive away release' are satisfied, e.g., drivers seat belt fastened). Emergency braking - even in the case of total hydraulic brake failure, it's possible to activate the EPB and bring the car to a stop, whilst maintaining control of the vehicle

        Convenience - 'Drive away release', 'Hill start assist', 'key-out apply', 'tow assist' etc.

        Fun! - watch the chav in the Audi back right off from tailgating you to the point where you can no longer see the headlights when you pull up the EPB switch and full ABS braking kicks in....

        For the 'cables and levers' luddites, I clearly remember my seven year old sister releasing the manual handbrake on our parents car parked at a campsite at the side of Lake Windemere... and jumping out to watch it rolling off the grass onto the foreshore (this was the late '60's so it was probably a Hillman Hunter, took several burly blokes - which my Father was not, to push it back onto the campsite), so this particular avenue of childrens fun has been closed off with EPB's. Yes, there is the issue of needing to connect to diagnostics to 'wind back' the motors, but the money saved by replacing the pads yourself more than makes up for splashing out on a £30 interface on fleabay

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Why do cars need electric parking brakes?

          >Convenience - 'Drive away release', 'Hill start assist', 'key-out apply', 'tow assist' etc.

          Funny that, I've not found any of the cars with electric handbrakes helpful in actually driving the car.

          Drive away release: with a manual handbrake, I'm away from the lights ages before the cars with electric handbrakes.

          Hill start assist: The car always rolls backwards before it goes forward and thus requires greater engine power to start off - something I can avoid with a manual handbrake, as it is very easy to feather the clutch/accelerator/brake as you get lots of feedback..

          Key out apply: yes useful, but currently , if I want to 'nudge' my car I can simply drop the handbrake give the car a push and reapply handbrake.

          Tow assist: if its what I think it is, that's just a fancy name for being able to release the handbrake without the engine running and keys in the ignition, so the car can be towed.

          Also a big problem with electric handbrakes, is when the car breaksdown, it is very difficult to move it. Numerous times a traffic jam has been caused by a modern car breaking down doing something simple such as turning right at a set of traffic lights. Basically, it is easier to leave the car there and wait for the AA/RAC/Greenflag...

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Why do cars need electric parking brakes?

            I'm away from the lights ages before the cars with electric handbrakes

            If you have your handbrake on at the lights then you are doing something very, very wrong. Yes, I know some driving schools teach this, but they are the same schools that appear to teach people to stop 5m back from the white line..

            Current car is a Toyota C-HR Hybrid (so uses the CVS gearbox) which does have an electric handbrake that cuts in automatically - when you put the gearbox into park. It's actually a pretty nice car to drive - especially as the hybrid batteries mean that the CoG is pretty low so it corners really, really well..

            (Any fool can drive fast in a straight line - but to drive fast round corners requires someone with a clue. Especially on a motorbike)

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: Why do cars need electric parking brakes?

              >If you have your handbrake on at the lights then you are doing something very, very wrong.

              Not if you have a manual gear box, as many roads in the UK aren't level, so you can expect the car to roll. Yes, driving an automatic is slightly different.

            2. SImon Hobson

              Re: Why do cars need electric parking brakes?

              If you have your handbrake on at the lights then you are doing something very, very wrong

              I call male bovine excrement on that.

              Arrive at lights, apply handbrake, into neutral, foot off clutch. Or are you one of those obnoxious ignorant tw**s that site there dazzling you with their brake lights as they sit there with their foot on the brake pedal.

              1. Def Silver badge

                Re: Why do cars need electric parking brakes?

                I’ll also add that if you get rear-ended without the handbrake on, there’s a much greater chance of your foot slipping and being pushed into the car in front.

              2. Trixr

                Re: Why do cars need electric parking brakes?

                My partner sits with her foot on the brake when the car is stationary, handbrake applied and in neutral, but with the engine running to keep the AC on when she picks me up after work sometimes.

                It drives me absolutely potty seeing the brake lights glowing when I walk up to the car from behind. Especially when it often takes me a little while to actually exit the building after she's arrived, and I know she's been sitting there like glowing like a christmas tree for at least 10 minutes...

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Why do cars need electric parking brakes?

            "Also a big problem with electric handbrakes, is when the car breaksdown, it is very difficult to move it. Numerous times a traffic jam has been caused by a modern car breaking down doing something simple such as turning right at a set of traffic lights. Basically, it is easier to leave the car there and wait for the AA/RAC/Greenflag..."

            That's more of a problem with modern drivers being unable or unwilling to get out & push the car to somewhere more sensible, in every case, there is a method of releasing the EPB without the engine having to be running, mostly it's simply ignition on, foot on brake, press EPB release (some, mainly JLR vehicles, also have an emergency release cable, reasonably easily accessed should the need arise). Of course, why the vehicle broke down may be the reason it cannot be moved rather than having to RTFM to release the park brake. Many auto gearboxed vehicles require the engine to be running to release the transmission, a few don't and a few have an emergency cable release in the event of no or not enough electrical power.

        2. Dazed and Confused

          Re: Why do cars need electric parking brakes?


          You can't use these stupid electric things to help with the steering.

          If you want to brake test people just use the peddle.

          If you want the rear end to swing round quickly you need to be able to pull the steering assist handle.

    4. Velv

      Re: Touch screens

      In some cars it's a tribute, ask Jamie Lee Curtis (second half of interview)

      1. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: Touch screens

        In some cars it's a tribute, ask Jamie Lee Curtis (second half of interview)
        You can link youtube videos at specific timestamps. Therefore rather than saying "second half of interview", pause the video at the beginning of the segment you'd like to refer to, right-click and select Copy video URL at current time and voila, you have a link to the exact place in the video that you are referring to.

        Interesting bit of trivia.

    5. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

      Re: Touch screens

      Amen. We have a Chevy Bolt EV, and the only car with a worst display & touch screen control system is my brother's Tesla.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The American elephant in the room, er, ocean.

        Chevy *Bolt* - This is what happens when the electric brakes fail. :)

    6. simonlb

      Re: Touch screens

      It's another example of this designer-led obsession with ramming every possible control into a touchscreen-based UI, without any sane or coherent thought given as to why.

      Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should.

      1. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: Touch screens

        There are engineering reasons also.

        I hate excessive touch controls, anything that is likely to be needed while driving should be a simple, unambiguous switch.

        However, that being said, it is cheaper, both in the number of components needed, and the labour to install, a single touch-screen than many individual controls. To have physical controls requires the buttons/sliders/levers themselves, the wiring looms and wiring to connect them, plus the labour to install and connect them all up. It complicates the design and manufacturing of the console components - need to have cutouts and places to install the controls and all the wiring. And designing the routing of that wiring can be a challenge depending on the complexity. e.g. the Airbus A380 experienced numerous delays to do with the wiring complexity of the aircraft. While that was an aircraft and not a car obviously, the same issues are true with car design as well.

        I'd rather pay a bit more, whats $1k or $2k extra when you are already spending $30k on a new car anyway, on more physical controls myself.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Touch screens

          Thats why Canbus came in, obstensibly to make things "better" - instead its just to save dealer techs time, cuts down on wiring and allows manufacturers to require modules to be "paired" to the car, only possible with THEIR proprietary tool/software, which is either hideously expensive (I think GM is well over £30 an hour for SPS programming rights) or you need to be an "authorised partner" to get access.

          I'm currently thinking about getting a classic and sticking 2 fingers up to the car vendors, greenies and local authorities (40 year old cars being exempt from LEZ, MOT and Tax and have no electronic control freakery...)

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Touch screens

            There was an article I think on BBC News this week about converting old classic cars to electric drive using scrap bits from crashed Teslas.

            1. simonlb

              Re: Touch screens

              Is that crashed as in Autopilot drove into something, or crashed as in the OS is in an infinite loop and can't recover?

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Touch screens

            I'm currently thinking about getting a classic

            Speaking as someone that's had a classic (1966 Morris Minor) since the early 90's you'll miss out on a lot of things (toys, functional 'luxuries' like working heaters, good MPG ratings, comfort[1] and the ability to survive a crash) and replace them with an expensive car to run (especially if you are not prepared to do your own servicing or replacement of rusted-out bodywork). And one that, eventually, won't be legal to run any more since it won't conform to emissions regulations[2].

            On the upside, you get a car that'll run on just about anything (including kerosene in the case of an unmodified MM) and won't be bothered by EMP in the case of a nuclear war.

            T'wife enjoys driving her MM round - I'm jsut glad I don't have to. Every time I replace my car the technology gap gets wider and wider..

            [1] I like my climate control and heated seats. And a nice sound system.

            [2] There are people that will produce electrification kits for older cars but the cost will mean that you are better off buying a newer car..

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Touch screens

              I was personally thinking more late 1970s pickup truck - working ventilation, good thick metalwork, big powerful motors, body on frame easy to work on and utterly exempt from Low Emission Zones restrictions.....I'm handy with the spanners also, just too many others have the same idea which is distorting the value of them upwards, even stateside.

              Morris Minor - pass, in fact pass on virtually all classic British cars...not my cup of tea at all....each to their own but not for me.,

              Turning a classic into an electric car- heresy, pure and utter heresy, for one the issue of conflict mined materials, adding in all the electronic spyware that I'm trying to away from, too much torque for the saying you'll make tea with gravy or something.......

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Touch screens

          To have physical controls requires the buttons/sliders/levers themselves, the wiring looms and wiring to connect them, plus the labour to install and connect them all up.

          Well I give you that having physical controls will complicate the dashboard construction, however there is no reason why those controls can't simply plug into a computer which presents the same digital/analogue interface to the rest of the vehicle as the touchscreen gismo.

          Remember with physical controls, the Chimp remembers where they are and the knob/button etc. tells the Chimp how to use the control. With a touchscreen, whilst the Chimp knows to touch, it requires higher functions to tell it the required sequences and sort the mess out when it touches too many times or in the wrong place...

        3. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

          Re: Touch screens

          Then: Why is there NO touch control in my car, which is among the cheapest cars on the market. I paid with EVERYTHING, including winter tires and including a Garmin navigation since it is cheaper and better than any built-in, below 10000 €.

          So much for "paying extra" for that, it is like being asked to be ripped off...

    7. devTrail

      Re: Touch screens

      It depends, the sat nav should be set before the car starts moving, but for controls that might be used while driving I do agree. Without manual feedback forcing the driver to turn the eyes from the road they are quite dangerous.

      1. Pete4000uk

        Re: Touch screens

        Yeah but it's not a phone so its OK

    8. tony72

      Re: Touch screens

      Totally agree about the lack of feedback on touchscreens. However it's pretty clear that this wasn't inherently a touchscreen issue. They had port and starboard throttles split between two stations, thus confusing the helmsman; you could equally do that with physical throttles as well as touchscreen ones, and it would be just as shit of a design. Ditto for the AIS laptops being hard to access. It sounds like a cobbled-together prototype lash-up that somehow ended up in the field.

      1. mevets

        Re: Touch screens

        " a cobbled-together prototype lash-up that somehow ended up in the field.”

        - the thirteenth principle of Agile Design.

        1. CountCadaver

          Re: Touch screens

          Rather than actually employing someone with some knowledge of user interfsce design....or you know....testing it under simulated conditions....for the cost of a warship a training simulator costs buttons in comparison and often throws up stuff you haven't considered would be an issue...Seemingly QE carriers had sailors using various designs of prototypes to find what could and would go wrong, they modded stuff a bit when someone piped up with "is this useable with antiflash kit on?" whereupon they got them to wear the kit and realised it wasn't useable with the gloves on, so modded the controls to make them useable

          Shocked that someone had the sense to realise that testing it on land in a simulator before you install it in a warship is a lot cheaper and easier than doing it AFTER you launch the thing...

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Touch screens

            Ordered two of marine engines with 9" touch screen remote control panel. Free carriage from China, please to leave positive feedback on this five star rated seller.

          2. eldakka Silver badge

            Re: Touch screens

            Shocked that someone had the sense to realise that testing it on land in a simulator before you install it in a warship is a lot cheaper and easier than doing it AFTER you launch the thing...

            Cost-plus contract. As the manufacturer you don't care how much it's gonna cost to retro-fit a different set of controls, as that just means more revenue to you. Once the customer accepts the product and then later decides they want a different configuration, a different set of controls, that's a bonus.

          3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Touch screens

            easier than doing it AFTER you launch the thing

            Reading around the issue - it also looks like the US Navy has a big problem with training sailors to *actually* understand what they are doing. Training by rote for a few tasks is all very well but it's better to actually train someone to understand the system..

            (Also, they have a problem with the sailors working long hours and losing concentration but I suspect that's an endemic US problem. The whole "first one in to work and last one to leave" attitude to really, really toxic.)

      2. NetBlackOps
        Thumb Up

        Re: Touch screens

        In the military, I worked professionally in a dozen fields of engineering. I was responsible for all the navigation equipment and, very unusually, I'm also qualified as helmsman, quartermaster, and navigator of the watch including underway refueling. There is no way in hell that I'd want this on my ship! I love my touchscreens here; one of my faves is my 20" that I use when I'm bedridden. It's on the end of a very long leash. However, even if the controls were all on the same screen, I can operate the helm of a real without glancing at the wheel and throttles and all the switchology (military term) is positive feedback.

        Even when I play my shipping games*, I much prefer keyboard and mouse over my touchscreen as, again, there's feedback. Collisions are expensive.

        * - Ports of Call is still very much a thang here. Amiga and PC.

      3. vtcodger Silver badge

        Re: Touch screens

        I don't know from personal experience, but I once worked on a project that was housed in a facility that primarily supported US Navy efforts. What they told me over lunch and the odd beer after work was that every ship is different, and even if the ships start out identical, by the time they have been back to the yards a couple of times for major maintenance they are unique. In particular, there is a tendency to jam new/updated technology in wherever adequate space, power, and cooling can be found. This results, I was told, in a somewhat disorderly environment. I can well imagine that the 25 year old McCain has no really good place to store laptop computers near where they will be used.

    9. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Touch screens

      outstanding analogy (ban from cars as well)!

      Looking at the Navy's reaction, they're trying to avoid the obvious situation as outlined in Arthur C. Clarke's "Superiority".

      The U.S. Military has made bad decisions before. IN the 1950's/60's they removed guns from fighter aircraft, saying "missiles are superior". Very shortly after, the guns were restored. Why? Pilots DIED because they didn't have any guns for close-in combat!

      That's one good example, and the U.S. military at least admits it F'd up and does the RIGHT thing.

      So they deserve a beer! Not for screwing up, of course, but for REALIZING it and THEN admitting wrong and going back to something that WORKS, "old school" tech, but apparently BETTER tech.

      1. SkippyBing

        Re: Touch screens

        The issue with all missile fighters was the Defence Secretary then decided that you had to get visual ID before you were allowed to shoot anything down. By which point you're too close for missiles...

        So the theory wasn't terrible, it just didn't allow for politicians.

        1. NetBlackOps

          Re: Touch screens

          You also have the problem of what to do when you are out of missiles. "When you are up to your ass in enemy, you're in combat!" (Furry's rules of Survival)

        2. not.known@this.address

          Re: Touch screens

          Skippybing, it was also due to the fact that the missiles they had were totally unsuited to the situation; a missile capable of flying a long way fast and hitting a big, lumbering bomber is about as much use as glaring out the window and waving your fist when up against small, agile and above all close-in enemy fighters. The AIM-7 Sparrow was known as 'The Great White Hope' for a reason and those pesky VC pilots were rather reluctant to stay at long range.

          Information on failure rates is, understandably, hard to come by but even the most optimistic proponent of missile warfare would have to admit that the number of kills recorded/claimed is considerably lower than the number of missiles launched... or maybe 'dropped' might be more accurate. And they didn't need to close to dogfight range either - there were several types of "electro-optical vision enhancement system" (or "camera" to anyone outside Military Procurement) that allowed identification of the 'bad guys' out to almost the range of the missiles but that's no use if the missile falls off the rail or can't pull the G's and make the turns.

          But on the whole you're right - letting politicians run military operations is asking for trouble.

      2. Gruber

        Re: Touch screens

        I think that for me the point is not about going back to 'old school' tech, but that it seems that the human factors engineering for assigning function to humans and automation and thus designing solutions was deficient. Given that a significant part of the development of Human Factors Engineering capability took place in the design of US Navy combat information centres (CIC) I find this surprising. Even if this 'kludge' of control interfaces is the result of 'mid-life upgrades' and so on, the human factors assessments are still required. Major fail, as far as I can see...

    10. Shadowmanx2012
      Thumb Up

      Re: Touch screens

      Can we ban them in cars too?

      I think too many desginers have been watching Star Trek etc, where everything seems touch based. As always the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). principle should be applied!

      1. Steevee

        Re: Touch screens

        I recall that the hot-shot pilot in ST:Voyager deliberately built a heavy-duty shuttle/scout/fighter with manual controls and analogue displays because (a) he was a vintage technology buff and (b) he preferred the feel and feedback of the controls over the touch-screens they used everywhere else in the 24th Century.

    11. rcxb

      Re: Touch screens

      While I agree and hate touch-screen, it's not as if the prior model was a panacea.

      My previous car had a vent open/close button which DID NOTHING until you ALSO turned the FAN on, and had no indication of such.

      Most cars have a hot-cold temperature dial which allows you to mix hot engine coolant with your cold air conditioner output, with little or no visible indication in the non-extreme cases.

      Both are issues an electronic control system would be smart enough to prevent. And while you can have mechanical inputs to an electronic system, there's rarely any way for them to provide feedback when the computer overrides them (i.e. motorized dials), which is a problem in itself. Electronic push-buttons with LED indicators are a reasonable compromise, but I have yet to see a vehicle where that is used for ALL the controls.

      1. Kernel

        Re: Touch screens

        "Most cars have a hot-cold temperature dial which allows you to mix hot engine coolant with your cold air conditioner output, with little or no visible indication in the non-extreme cases."

        This is a desirable thing to be able to do and over winter it could be said to be essential in most climates - cooling the air condenses a lot of the moisture out of it and heating the air after cooling it dries it out even more, preventing fogging of the windows.

        Most of us don't have the luxury of living in a year around warm, dry climate where fogged up windows are never seen.

        1. Trollslayer

          Re: Touch screens

          The only time I've had a misted up windscreen (well part of it) was when the pollen filter was years overdue for replacement.

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Touch screens

          where fogged up windows are never seen


          The number of modern cars I see that have steamed up windows is shocking - it's obvious that the drivers don't have a clue about how the ventilation works and that there really, really isn't an excuse, in a modern[1] car to have fogged up windows - particularly the windscreen.


          If, even in a 1966 Morris Minor, we can keep the front windscreen clear[2] without having to continually wipe the inside, what excuse do you have?

          [1] Something made after about 1980.

          [2] Even before we had the heated front screen[3] fitted. Yes, the heater in the MM is terrible[4]. Yes, you might have to wipe it before you set off but, once wiped it will stay clear, even with the anaemic controls.

          [3] Even if it makes your eyes go slightly cross-eyed with the very fine black lines caused by the heating elements.

          [4] As in "works fine in warm weather but not in cold" Even with the heater in winter mode (with the air intake pointed at the engine) it barely outputs any heat. Which is why my wife has a set of salopettes that she waers in winter when driving the car. Personally I'll stick to my car that has a nice set of seat heaters and climate control..

      2. SkippyBing

        Re: Touch screens

        'Most cars have a hot-cold temperature dial which allows you to mix hot engine coolant with your cold air conditioner output, with little or no visible indication in the non-extreme cases.

        Only if you're a pauper without climate control.

        Disclaimer I only ever buy cars second hand but it's helpful to have as a filter on autotrader to limit the choice.

    12. swm Silver badge

      Re: Touch screens

      Another problem with touch screens is when wearing polarized sun glasses. Instead of using circularly polarized light or vertically polarized light they use an angle that makes the screen go dark if I lean over to read it.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    WTAF - split throttles let alone all the other crap. How did such a design pass basic functionality testing?

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Affordance was no longer considered important once the web designers started doing clever UI tricks.

      Visibility went out with the arrival of Windows 8.

      Feedback went with the arrival of touch screens.

      I just want big buttons.

      1. theModge

        I just want big butt....

        And you can't lie?

        Seriously, I'm with those who like tactile feedback.

        In a different world, in which I used to work, this also applies to stage lighting control consoles. Touch screens are fine for functions you don't have to find in the dark, nor on a given beat, but some things need a button or (ideally motorised) fader.

        1. GnuTzu

          I remember a friend glowingly speaking of a large control knobs for volume and such in a radio station in which he once worked. And, then there are the PC gamers who still spend extra for the keyboards with tactile feedback and weighted mice.

          So, where are the after market shops that'll rip out the stupid touch screens and replace them with something that has that pro feel? Oh, wait... What about the IP protection that keeps you from altering that stuff that you thought you bought? Sorry, we don't actually get to own what we pay for anymore.

          1. Mark 110

            Hmmmmmm - I am starting to think my 2013 DS3 might be with me for some time if the new version will involve faffing with a touch screen. I want my controls near my fingers which are on the steering wheel.

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            weighted mice

            Is that to stop them running away? I could see how that might work.

            (Mind you, the only mice we see are partially-disassembled ones)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "weighted mice"

              That's the name of the iron counterweights in a sash window.

        2. CountCadaver

          Someone watched Star Trek and thought "hey thats the future, wipe clean touchscreens"

          (even ST touched on the frustrations of dealing with flat screens rather than tactile controls in Voyager...)

    2. nematoad Silver badge

      "How did such a design pass basic functionality testing?"

      Because someone's promotion and/or future employment in the defence industry depended on it passing.

      See: Col. James G Burton "The Pentagon Wars" to see how that works.

      1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker Silver badge

        "The Pentagon Wars'

        I watched the HBO movie.

        Now recheck my nickname. I'm pretty close to the action, and it's amazing how useless our interfaces can be as long as the vehicles meet contractual requirements. (Note: I've NEVER witnessed cheating on the testing. Operator error, maybe...)

        A summary regarding throttles:

        M2/M3 Bradley (see book/movie) before the newest engine upgrade -- mechanical throttle pedal; don't know the rest (wrong company)

        M1 Abrams -- motorcycle twist-grip throttle-by-wire (analog signal); bowden-cable steering and braking (mechanical link)

        Stryker -- electronic throttle pedal (5V PWM signal), pneumatic heavy truck/bus-like brakes (pedal operates control valve); truck/bus-like steering (never figured out the details)

        In all cases, the driver is in charge of mobility, and the vehicle commander can chew them out but not override them short of shutting down the engine, in most cases by turning the electric power feed off since the driver has the "ignition/run" control.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: "The Pentagon Wars'

          Stryker -- electronic throttle pedal

          Is that EMP-proof? I would have thought (ha!) that something that makes a battlefield vehicle more senitive to EMP was a Very Bad Thing...

          1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker Silver badge

            Re: "The Pentagon Wars'

            No more EMP-hardened than the Caterpillar engine (and it's off-the-shelf control module) itself. Or the Allison transmission and commercial-grade trans control module or pushbutton shifter.

            Abrams definitely had EMP requirements, because I know of certain design details I better not share (not classified but still crosses a line; the above Stryker stuff is all public knowledge already). Not sure Stryker had the same requirements, and it highly levered foreign (Euro-Canadian) designs done by then-GM Defense, hence the roles of Cat and Allison plus other commercial tech. EMP / NED tech is going to cost you, especially in testing!

            The defense/defence prime contractors of any country will design to the requirements. Sure, the proposal may offer more, but in the end, don't count on the extras; you'll get only the minimum to fulfill the contract. It's how the primes guarantee future work for add-ons / upgrades.

      2. GnuTzu

        It's the people who decide what can and can't be tested, as well as what goes into the final reports. Reviewing engineers and testers are not allowed to make any qualitative comments outside of what the law has prescribed. And, who writes that law?

        Beware the military industrial complex.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Designed by Boeing?

    4. Simon Harris

      Throttles split across different consoles.

      That sounds like a recipe for the Chuckle Brothers 'To me... To you.'

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        remember Three Mile Island? And the resultant melted reactor core?

        One of the MAJOR reasons behind this incident was (apparently) that the various indications were on SEPARATE PANELS located across the room. So on one panel you see pressurizer level going UP. On a DIFFERENT panel you see PRESSURE going Down. Guess which one they were paying attention to? That's right, pressurizer level going UP [a stuck open valve indicated shut but was venting steam, causing level to go up... so they SHUT OFF THE FEED PUMPS to "stop it", depressurizing the core and then all hell broke loose, more or less simplified version].

        So yeah, the throttles need to be in ONE place, where you have speed indication and steering, kinda like your gas pedal, brake, gear shift, and steering wheel are "right there" along with speed indication and engine parameters in your car.

        But yeah, "modern" approaches like (did I mention it? OK I'll do it again - Arthur C Clarke's "Superiority") that FORGET the lessons learned in the past are ONCE AGAIN being done by the ARROGANT generation we have today. Almost as bad as it was in the 60's...

        1. Denarius Silver badge


          right. A critical gauge only visible if one stood on a chair and peered over top of a cabinet. Different Beer caps glued to the two stop Go control levers so operators could tell them apart. Apparently red and green colors too hard.

      2. Crypto Monad Silver badge

        > Throttles split across different consoles.


        > That sounds like a recipe for the Chuckle Brothers 'To me... To you.'

        Or Air France 447.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Hey Siri! Set both throttle to 50%.

          Setting port throttle to 50%...

          Hey Siri... both... BOTH... BOOOOOOTTTTTHHHH!!!!! *crunch*

    5. Flywheel

      Maybe one of the Boeing 737 Max designers had a summer internship?

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Or they'd been watching Pacific Rim the night before and wanted to try as close to drifting as possible in the real world? And instead of drift, they got sharp turn instead....

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          If they wanted proper drifting they'd be playing Densha de D....


    6. devTrail

      WTAF - split throttles,

      It's normal on a warship. Two propellers pushing at different speed turn the ship quickly making her more reactive in action. Turning with the rudder requires a lot more time.

      The issue here seems to be that the helmsman(*) inadvertently activated a function meant to be used in combat, although the article doesn't explain why they were passing so close to the tanker and other details.

      * Is the helmsman also controlling the speed?

      1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        WTAF - split throttles,

        It's normal on a warship. Two propellers pushing at different speed turn the ship quickly making her more reactive in action.

        And the same for tanks, other tracked vehicles, or any split drive system. But it's not the split throttle per se which is an issue; it's the split console, one per throttle.

        1. devTrail

          But it's not the split throttle per se which is an issue; it's the split console, one per throttle.

          I don't think it would be a good idea to put both of them on the same console side by side, can you imagine someone trying to control them during combat on heavy sea? It's a warship, not a cocooned craft going around only when the weather is nice. I wonder why it took so long to realise that the touch screen was a bad idea.

          1. mevets

            I can imagine that; I imagine a large bronze handle which sticks out from a bronze disc that is emblazoned with Full, Half, Slow, ... Ahead, Reverse in white lettering. I can even imagine a half crazed white bearded captain pushing it to Fool in an ice field.

            I can’t imagine an electronic toy in its place.

          2. TRT Silver badge

            And have you SEEN what water spray does to a capacitative touch screen?

            1. hammarbtyp

              "And have you SEEN what water spray does to a capacitative touch screen?"

              Have you seen what spray does to anything electronic? Thats why they electronic kit is protected from the elements.

              I work for a company which makes ship control systems and we have a combination of touch screen and physical controls

              Modern ship control systems are a bit more than port/starboard/aft/forward. They are more like aircraft fly by wire systems where you tell it where you want to go and it works out the optimum path. While in theory you could do this using pushbutton technology (which are also prone to ocean spray), it would not allow the optimal control of your system.

          3. Denarius Silver badge

            touch screens

            Who thought touch screens were a good idea ? Ask the instigators of Windows 8

            Hate the bloody things. Wont respond to a finger poke, or sledgehammer, then a speck of dust brushes across phone and b*d thing does 10 horrible unwanted actions.

            Has uses in small devices but that about it and even then I would like at least a few keys.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge

        "Is the helmsman also controlling the speed?"

        On the older ships you had something called a 'motor order telegraph', that big brass thingy with a lever on it, that says "stop, ahead 1/3, ahead 2/3, standard, full, flank" on it [also backing bells]. You'd have one for each throttle. So if the captain says "all back port, all flank starboard" you ring up the appropriate speeds on the indicators, and someone in the engine room operates the steam system accordingly.

        If you have 4 shafts, then "all back port" means both of them, and "all flank starboard" is similar. But using 'all' even for a single shaft is common because people recognize that as a speed change order from the Officer of the Deck.

        Perhaps the REAL problem here is the use of touch screens for something that was normally a bit more controlled, involved multiple people, etc.. You had to physically operate levers to send an order to the engine room(s) to make something happen. [this also means you can control the ship when the bridge is blown to @#$% and you have someone on deck with a sound powered phone giving orders to the various aux control stations, something that helps with a badly damaged ship trying to deal with it instead of sinking].

        1. devTrail

          Offshore powerboats have two pilots, one steering the boat, the other controlling the speed. I know that it happens mainly because for a small boat judging the route and at the same time the speed to hit a nearby wave is not easy and that is not necessary on a bigger ship, but I still believed they were two different specialised tasks.

        2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          As I understand it, modern US and UK warships (only because those are all I've read about) have the helm directly controlling the engines. No engine telegraphs and bells no more. Which is obviously quicker - although I presume they're limited to what engine power is currently online/authorised by the engine room. For example you might need to press some extra buttons to be able to fire up the gas turbines to go much faster.

          1. SkippyBing

            It's a bit more complicated than that, certainly on the T23, in that you let the engine room know if you're planning on going fast enough to need the gas turbines and they sort out all the details for you. You can also put the engines in engine room control and just tell them what you want, in the worst case this involves personnel in the actual machinery spaces manually controlling the engines. Redundancy, they've heard of it.

            1. eldakka Silver badge


              And are those machinery spaces in precarious positions, right in front of turbines with no safety barriers such that if they don't hold on tight enough when you hit turbo the operator gets sucked into the turbine?

            2. hammarbtyp

              T23 are hardly state of the art.

              T45, CVF and the new type 26 have a combination of diesel and electric motors. The helm makes a requests (speed, bearing, etc) and the this is automatically translated to the engine requests, in terms of which motors to use etc. A modern ship is quite complex in terms of engine management, but are more like a modern airliner than the old ships, because it allows maximum efficiency and engine response

              1. SkippyBing

                Haven't had an excuse to go on the newer stuff yet! Interestingly the USN tried going to a hybrid electric drive for the Arleigh Burke and changed their mind, so they're still going round with a full COGAG set up.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        On RN gas turbine, after several bridge officers tried to use them like a car throttle and wrecked the gas turbines, so often the bridge crew tell marine engineering what speed they want and they handle the loading on the turbines to avoid tearing them up....

        1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          "On RN gas turbine, after several bridge officers tried to use them like a car throttle and wrecked the gas turbines"

          I know nothing about marine engines; why would using them like this wreck the engines?

          1. SkippyBing

            Gas turbines don't like lots of large throttle changes, they're happiest running at a constant speed. The temperature fluctuations aren't great for one thing so it leads to a reduced MTBF. Less of a problem these days as everything moves to electric final drive which cushions the turbines from the demand changes.

            1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

              Interesting - thank you.

    7. bombastic bob Silver badge

      "How did such a design pass basic functionality testing?"

      Some "whiz kid" millenial type probably *FELT* it "was modern" which AUTOMATICALLY made it "better".

      He did not live through the 1960's and so did not know about LBJ's "whiz kids". Nor did he read Arthur C. Clarke's "superiority". He probably *FELT* his recent education made him WISER than his predecessors, because of safe spaces, participation trophies, and having his self esteem positively re-enforced all of his life.

      Or something like that. And seeing EVERYTHING through a 4 inch phone screen, held vertically, which keeps you from noticing the surroundings... like a horse with BLINDERS on.

      1. Cavehomme_

        That's a hilarious post BB!

        1. asdf

          Be a bit more funny if he wasn't mostly serious.

          1. bombastic bob Silver badge

            good satire is rooted in truth

            and thanks for noticing

    8. Siberian Hamster

      Split throttles for each screw is common to allow low speed manoeuvrability, at low speeds there is not enough water flowing past the rudder to afford as tight a turning circle as can be achieved with split throttles.

      That being said, to split the throttles across two screens is utter madness unless it is spelt out in bright flashing 144pt comic sans!

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        big brass levers look cool. They're easily seen from a distance, easily recognized for what they are, and in a smoke filled room (due to battle damage) can be operated without squinting a whole lot, using flashlights if necessary. Or just "by feel" because you know where each bell's position is.

        Back when i was in the navy, in the 80's even, I commented about how the panels had these big analog meters on them. I immediately thought "we should have digital meters" thinking that tech had advanced. Then I spent some time standing watch on the panels, got familiar with how things were done, understoode more, and REALIZED that a 1/2" wide meter needle can be seen from across the room even when filled with smoke or steam, and you can get a general idea of what the readings are by the relative position of the needles. If you were forced to read a number, you could make a mistake in poor visibility.

        Not only that, these old techs are BATTLE TESTED and have DECADES of reliability. In a battle, you want that. I can't imagine trying to manage combat operations with the touch screens. Ew.

        Back to Arthur C. Clarke's "Superiority". I keep mentioning that, yeah...

        1. keithpeter Silver badge

          Point on a scale

          @Bombastic and all

          We are, basically, primates running modified software and as such I suspect that we are adapted to monitor our surroundings for things that *change* from the norm. Hence the increased usability of big fat gauges and levers, as Mr Bob says, you develop awareness of what looks like a normal pattern and can detect and deal with any departures.

          Teaching basic maths to teenagers has paid my rent for several decades. When you say a number like 14.6 I immediately see a pointer on some kind of scale (because I'm old) and I'm thinking 'could be anywhere between 14.55 and 14.65, 20 is close, 10 is closer and it is nowhere near 146'. The younguns are just seeing digits - numbers in a line - no obvious awareness of what other numbers are near or far (14.7 as opposed to 146).

          How we get round this I'm not sure.

    9. SkippyBing

      'How did such a design pass basic functionality testing?

      I suspect because it was an incremental upgrade to a design from the '80s. So someone just said we can do this neat thing, without the implications being thought through.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        "someone just said we can do this neat thing, without the implications being thought through."


    10. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Words fail me as to how fucked up the navy managed to make this.

      - inability to transfer throttle as an atomic unit.. apparently they need to transfer port control, once they've gone through the additional extra screen-taps, the starboard engine control, a minute or so later. presumably in the interim, leaving two stations each in control of one engine. The happy path 99.99% use case of both at the same time not considered. that is worth a facepalm right there.

      - no clear indication as to which station has control at any one time. how about spending a dollar on a big flashing light that lights up when the station has control hmm?

      - being so utterly confused as to what the 'manual control override' button does that they're afraid to press it because they think it'll transfer control away to the aft steering position.. newsflash.. hitting the big red manual override button causes you to GAIN control not lose it.. fucking IDIOTS

      just.. wow. everyone on the bridge that night deserves to be in prison serving a manslaughter sentence. 4 minutes for them to notice that they accidentally transferred steering control as well as port engine control.. and not a single brain on that bridge thinks 'HUH we lost steering control right at the same moment as we tried to transfer the engine to that station.. i WONDER IF we accidentally sent the steering over at the SAME TIME lets check and find out'

    11. Denarius Silver badge

      once more with feeling

      What happened to design symbolism ?

      See the 1957 book "The Psychology of Everyday Things"

      Insane having like controls not placed together. Throttles should be grouped with throttles, steering with steering, yes wheel and side thrusters etc.

      The disintegration of the West continues.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: once more with feeling

        "Insane having like controls not placed together."

        A nuclear power plant had two important similar functions side by side with identical levers. IIRC one was "tidy shut down" - the other was "emergency crash down".

    12. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I was once asked to test some in-development Navy equipment as an operator and provide feedback. I identified several issues (similar to the ones raised in this article), but the development was basically already complete, so nothing could really be changed outside of simple software tweaks. So I'd say the underlying problem is not having operators involved from early in the development process.

  3. JimmyPage

    Based on my (Citroen) in car touch screen

    They are all SHIT.

    A little trick mine plays (for example when selecting a preset speed for the limiter) is to "blip" to show it's registered your touch, and then do fuck all - the wife has actually filmed this happening.

    The result is you either end up speeding, or looking for longer than is safe at this utterly shit piece of kit that you have to somehow tell yourself made it through the most exacting of tests to be allowed out in the wild.

    I know it's a car, not a 737Max, but the former explains the latter.

    1. iron Silver badge

      Re: Based on my (Citroen) in car touch screen

      Its almost as if they don't want you to use the touchscreen while driving because its a dangerous distraction or something.

      1. jgarbo

        Re: Based on my (Citroen) in car touch screen

        We've added this very expensive kit for your convenience, but don't use it, it's very dangerous...

      2. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge

        Re: Based on my (Citroen) in car touch screen

        My relatively new Kia has a large touch screen in the centre of the console which defaults to map mode (from GPS - I rarely use SatNav; a map is much better from my perspective) but when it starts it exhorts you to not look at the screen while driving.

        Quiet amusing really.

        The only thing I cannot control directly or easily apart without using the touch screen are the radio settings (apart from volume) and SatNav. I can cycle manually through radio stations with a button on the steering wheel though.

        I do like the fact that the instrument cluster (at least the speedometer and engine RPM) are not soft displays as they are in some vehicles. I remember renting an Alfa Romeo that moved the soft gauges for speed and engine RPM from min to max and back to min at power up. Quite disconcerting at first.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Based on my (Citroen) in car touch screen

        Its almost as if they don't want you to use the touchscreen while driving because its a dangerous distraction or something.

        Sure, that's why some dimwit designers also put the heater controls there..

        I get why car manufacturers try to get rid of switches as much as possible, it's cheaper to put a screen in but things like lights, ventilation and volume control must be available without having to dig through a menu. That said, I know it's not an easy balance to strike, also because part of that is preference. The simplest test is a rental: if you cannot operate the car without much digging, get another one (there is a particular electric Renault in rental use where it is, for instance, impossible to kill the radio if I still want to hear the GPS unless you spend several minutes in quiet place ploughing through the menus).

        I also wholeheartedly agree with the commentard who wanted a normal ignition key back, and not just because that stops a relay based theft. It also gives me a deadman's switch in case something goes bonkers and/or gets hacked. It can also be a BRB (Big Red Button) as long as it MECHANICALLY kills power and so returns physical control to me. I've only been doing electronics and computers for some decades, so pardon me if that hasn't exactly enamoured me to things that deny me shutdown control. As a matter of fact, my next car will have that as an aftermarket alteration - it's standard gear in rallye cars (I think even mandatory) so it's not difficult to obtain.

        While I'm at it I would like to express my extreme dislike of the stripy indicators that consist of a sort of an animated "growing" line of orange LEDs. I think Audi started with this first, but it appears to have infected other cars as well now. An indicator is a signalling device that informs other road users that you're about to change direction (I'm discounting the considerable part of the population here that has never quite worked out what that stick on the steering wheel does, of course).

        The fact that you are about to change direction is an alert - a possible risk. Any, and I mean ANY delay in making that signal detectable is IMHO bad news. That should be fully ON the very moment you switch it on. Anything that delays a fellow road user picking that up, even by a fraction, is IMHO unacceptable. Safe should still come WAY before fancy.

        So there :)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Based on my (Citroen) in car touch screen

          Yet according to (and others) its perfectly legal as the manufacturer designed it to be a "characteristic" of the car.


          You want to see Kamikaze driving, Dundee is always "interesting", even more so when on the bus where many of their drivers seem to believe they are either invincible or simply have a deathwish.........pulling out in front of lorries at the very last second, cue one trucker soiling himself as do anyone not born in or a long term resident of Dundee using the bus....

          1. Intractable Potsherd

            Re: Based on my (Citroen) in car touch screen

            "Dundee is always "interesting","

            You didn't mention the "Dundee left", which involves actually indicating left, then swinging out to the right to make the turn. I have never seen this used by anything other than an artic, previously, but it is common here. When we moved up, I nearly wiped out a number of cars whilst attempting to pass them.

            1. CountCadaver

              Re: Based on my (Citroen) in car touch screen

              Happens in the towns around Dundee also, seen people going wide on blind bends (even ones where arctics don't need to swing wide), cue almost head on collisions happening....and often with tractors, that will win that argument....

        2. STOP_FORTH
          Thumb Up

          Re: Based on my (Citroen) in car touch screen

          Bring back trafficators!

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Based on my (Citroen) in car touch screen

            Bring back trafficators!

            Cos they were so much fun when they removed various body parts of pedestrians or cyclists..

            (There's a reason why they were removed!).

            1. STOP_FORTH

              Re: Based on my (Citroen) in car touch screen

              Well, obviously there's a reason why they were removed. They got in the way of the trafficators.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Based on my (Citroen) in car touch screen

          "[...] hat has never quite worked out what that stick on the steering wheel does [...]"

          Many years ago my employer provided hire cars for the occasional site visits. You never knew what make or model would be waiting for you. The insurers also insisted you could only use the car for an A to B journey - so no chance of a test drive first.

          On the morning in question I joined the motorway near the office. Quite soon the traffic in my centre lane started to slow - and it started to rain. I flipped the indicator stalk to get a quick wash/wipe - and nothing happened. I had to look at the dashboard to find a washer knob. Looking up - to my horror a large truck had now entered the motorway and immediately moved into the centre lane, occupying my "safe distance" zone before hitting their brakes.

          After that I went by train. The use of controls on a car should be second nature.

        4. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: animated "growing" line of orange LEDs

          I recall some research into the use of animated vs. static (albeit flashing for indicators) brake and indicator lights. An extension of logic behind using different colours and flashing vs. steady lights. Sadly I don't remember where though.

          The conclusion was animated vehicle state lights (braking, turning) are more detectable to humans than static lights, understood more quickly, and can provide more information.

          Imagine in the dark/fog, just seeing an orange flashing light (let's say for argument other marker lights have failed or are obscured - a poor hypothesis perhaps, I admit); could be a car indicator but which direction is indicated? Can't see the car, so can't see which side the light is for. Animation provides some missing information.

          Their primary example was a brake light pattern starting small and central, rapidly growing to fill the light space. I believe their experiments suggested a wide, inverted triangle (base at the top, apex at the bottom) light pattern was the most effective of the patterns tested.

          So yeah maybe it also looks cool, or not depending on your point of view. But there's (sometimes) scientific reasoning behind the "ooh shiny" mentality. Sometimes.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: animated "growing" line of orange LEDs

            Umm, they blink. That's animated enough IMHO. The time where they go from one "is it a light reflection or is it an indicator" LED to enough of them lit to make that certain is wasted time.

            Maybe if they could start full and go smaller - that would be safe, have that first warning and then the animation.

    2. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

      Re: Based on my (Citroen) in car touch screen

      Bit puzzled about touchscreen speedlimiter. My wife's newish (2yrs old) Citroen speed control is all physical switches.

      Does have a touchscreen for radio/heating/satnav but not noticed it being particularly laggy...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bit puzzled about touchscreen speedlimiter.

        You can set it from a physical switch on the steering wheel, but there's also a "MEM" feature which brings up a list of common speeds (and it is a nice touch you can set them yourself) on the touchscreen for selection.

        As I say, you press, it "blips" and then does nothing. (I realise the debouncing is a little too heavy, but it makes the system useless - you can't trust it)

        1. Mike 16

          Re: Blips and does nothing

          If they waited until the computer was sure it had acted on the touch, you would notice how bad the latency jitter was, and we can't have that!.

          The "blip on maybe a press" if a computer version of your feckless assistant saying "yeah, I'll get right on it" and then completely ignoring what you said. Or maybe the "Your call is important to us" recordings.

    3. Grunchy Bronze badge

      Re: Based on my (Citroen) in car touch screen

      My working theory is the helmsman had a sudden case of trots, ran to the head, heard the "turn aboot!" order, dashed out without properly drying his fingers (wiped all over his dungarees), and was aghast when the touch screen wouldn't register commands from soggy digits.

      Also, he didn't use soap. Or water.

  4. Peter Clarke 1

    Easy Fix

    LCARS works (almost) perfectly on Galaxy Class (star)ships. Maybe the USN should have a word with Paramount Studios??

    Make it so, Number one

    1. Teiwaz

      Re: Easy Fix

      Maybe they opted for the 23rd Century retro look consisting of banks and banks of unlabelled glowing buttons?

      1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker Silver badge

        Re: Easy Fix

        Does that explain modern music "production stations"?

        I can't figure out what they're for or how they work just looking at them. Surely all the colors on that unlabelled button grid mean something.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Easy Fix

          "Surely all the colors on that unlabelled button grid mean something."

          Sounds just like a 1960 RCA501/KDF8 console panel. Visitors knew that all those flashing lights meant it really was a mainframe computer to meet their expectations.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Easy Fix

      That's why they need a robot at the helm, and when a counselor tried to pilot it, it crashed...

    3. Evil_Tom

      Re: Easy Fix

      I remember on an episode of Voyager when Tuvok the tactical officer was lacking sight, they had a "tactile" interface. So although they were apparently flat glass panels they had some way of simulating feedback.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Easy Fix

        There's that goo that solidifies when charged a certain way around.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Easy Fix

        "So although they were apparently flat glass panels they had some way of simulating feedback.

        Haptic feedback is a research area using various effects to fool the finger tips into feeling "movement".

  5. Oh Matron!

    You're pressing it wrong....

    Too soon?

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Too bad it took a collision

    Frankly I am appalled that the Navy got a touchscreen-based steering function installed. You'd think they, of all people, would want to ensure that they could control their ships in all conditions, even if the windows broke in a heavy storm, for example. But no, they went ahead and created something touchpad-based for a crucial function of the vessel and got bit in the ass for it.

    Well, at least that's one mistake they'll not make again for long while.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: Too bad it took a collision

      >>> that's one mistake they'll not make again for long while

      At least until the next project...

      1. oiseau Silver badge

        Re: Too bad it took a collision

        At least until the next project...

        Along with it's associated pork barrel.


    2. Richard Jones 1

      Re: Too bad it took a collision

      I hate touch screens because they ignore my old worn fingers and need to be prodded with a suitable tool.

      However, in the case of the USN, it was not just the use of touch screens that sounds at fault, surely the Human Machine Interface was straight out wrong? Ungrouping controls, so they were almost intended to work against each other was stupid. It might have been worse, if you could simultaneously command full ahead on one screen and full astern on the other. I wonder who put this pile of poo together, did they also do work for Boeing I wonder?

      1. stiine Silver badge

        Re: Too bad it took a collision

        re: ahead full on one, back full on the other.

        That's a normal (wartime) control setting, if you want to manoever quickly. I personally believe that the separate thottle controls simply need a tie function, otherwise install a larger screen so you can see/control both from a single location. Also, a competent ensign would know that any throttle command received should contain one of three prefixes: port (only the port throttle),starboard (only the starboard throttle), all (both port and starboard throttles).

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Too bad it took a collision

        "touch screens because they ignore my old worn fingers"

        I find it's usually a combination of too cold and/or too dry. Breathing on the fingertips usually works for me.

        1. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

          Re: Too bad it took a collision

          "touch screens because they ignore my old worn fingers"

          I find it's usually a combination of too cold and/or too dry. Breathing on the fingertips usually works for me.

          It may be the fingers in reality. I know I sometimes struggle with touch screens which I attribute to a fair amount of scar tissue from a lifetime of knife Nick's, soldering burns and the like. How bad it affects me depends very much on the screen but I generally find changing fingers usually works. The pinkies are the most reliable which fits my theory since they're least likely to get pranged but it's very unnatural to use them constantly.

    3. Chris G

      Re: Too bad it took a collision

      The touch screen system was obviously conceived of and agreed to by people with no experience or concept of damage control in battle situations.

      In the old days in the British navy there were articificers who could maintain and repair almost anything on the go, including jury rigging steering and things like mechanical throttles.

      How would damage to your touch screens and associated coms for them, be dealt with in battle conditions today?

      1. LDS Silver badge

        'be dealt with in battle conditions today?'

        Like in the old days, I guess. Voice commands to the engine room...

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

          Re: 'be dealt with in battle conditions today?'

          Just be careful what you wish for. The next stage of the (d)evolution would probably end up with the ship being steered and navigated from an app on the Captain's iPhone...

    4. Mog_X

      Re: Too bad it took a collision

      "Control of the port and starboard throttles was split between two helm stations"

      So if the ship has taken damage on the bridge whilst in conflict with the Russians/Chinese/Swiss (delete where applicable) and one of the helmsman is taken out, can it then only steer in circles?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Too bad it took a collision

        The advantage of the touch screen is that ANY of the panels can be configured to do all of the controls. So if one helm is knocked out you can control every from somewhere else - infinity duplicate controls.

        It's just that the interface was too complicated and there was no training and the trainees were supposed to learn on the job while doing 24hour/day shifts

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Too bad it took a collision


        [Nods]. Famous for their naval expertise they are. Much like Lichtenstein.

        1. KBeee Silver badge

          Re: Too bad it took a collision

          Well they did win the America's Cup

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Too bad it took a collision

      "Well, at least that's one mistake they'll not make again for long while."

      Don't count on it. In the old days of the IT industry it was quite common for the O/S developer staff to be renewed about every 18 months - as promotions etc took effect.

      Those of us in the support group would see particular software bugs repeat in the same cycle - as a new coder decided they could (un)do something in an "obvious" way.

  7. joeW

    "The review is also pushing for more commonality between ships of the same class so that functions and information on screens appears in the same place and on the same menus"

    Why in heaven's name would this not already be the case?

    1. demonwarcat

      Because they are built in batches and take a long time to build so new equipment comes along. Even within batches there is a probability that later ships will include newer kit that will not be retrofitted until the earlier ships come up for refit. Ships from later batches can be radically different from earlier batches.

      1. eldakka Silver badge

        Sorta like calling a near complete new aircraft that has different flight characteristics as part of the same 'class' as an older one, rather than labelling in what it is, as a new 'class' ?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Glass breaks.

    It's clear that anyone who specified touch screens in a warship has never seen action. When that missile hits everything, including crew, are knocked sideways. Ask anyone who was on HMS Sheffield.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Glass breaks.

      Putting usability aside for a moment, designing consoles that don't injure sailors who fall against them is an interesting topic. And, for that matter, designing throttle control sticks that aren't broken by a human falling against them.

      These particular concerns don't rule out touchscreens per se. Glass is usually, but not always, used on phones for its scratch resistance - and for its smooth feeling. However, tough (impact resistant) screens do exist, and the scratch concerns are less for a mounted touchscreen than they are for a pocket device. Plastic screen protectors can still be used to protect the screen from, for example, a sailor wearing a diamond ring or watch - the protectors will likely just need less frequent replacement than a phone's screen protector.

      Of course materials technology can also be applied to physical controls. It's possible engineer a throttle stick that bends if someone falls against it and then springs back to its normal shape.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: Glass breaks.

        Of course materials technology can also be applied to physical controls. It's possible engineer a throttle stick that bends if someone falls against it and then springs back to its normal shape.

        Or just use the NASA Aldrin solution, and temporarily fix it with a pen ...?

      2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Re: Glass breaks.

        "Of course materials technology can also be applied to physical controls. It's possible engineer a throttle stick that bends if someone falls against it and then springs back to its normal shape."

        I think they might be able to track down a few companies with expertise in that area though they may have to disable their internet filter to do it.

    2. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Glass breaks.

      I can't think of any warship control system that would work be better with a touchscreen under combat conditions while wearing fireproof gloves and a smoke hood.

      Unambiguous self evident controls should be mandatory, big knobs & levers that go clunk so you can feel that they've changed position without needing to actually see what you're doing when groping around in the dark.

      Important controls that are duplicated should always be synchronised, throttle control has to mirror the physical reality which has always meant separate controls for each power source (boiler, turbine, generator, reactor etc.) and each power output (propeller shaft).

      Whatever happend to the 'keep it simple' approach.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: Whatever happend to the 'keep it simple' approach

        An MBA came along and redefined the concept of 'simple' with a striking PowerPoint presentation.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Whatever happend to the 'keep it simple' approach

          'simple' with a striking PowerPoint presentation

          That, purely accidentally, made lots and lots of money for the shipyard that won the contract for refitting the ships.

          The same shipyard that, purely coincidentally, said MBA went and worked for a year later with a very large pay-packet.

  9. localzuk Silver badge

    Touchscreens have their place

    You can't really blame a touchscreen for the issue. You have to blame the interface running on that touchscreen. Split throttles on 2 different screens? Why? Did the manual throttles have 2 levers in 2 different places on the bridge to do the same? No? So why do it when you change to a touchscreen?

    Moving to a different piece of kit doesn't mean you have to fundamentally change how everything works. Want to put a touchscreen in to replace a big button? Go for it, just make the interface also be a big button. Not have some odd UI that you have to navigate to get to that button!

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Touchscreens have their place

      Absolutely, various control schemes have their merits. Choose accordingly and then test, test, and test again.

      A capacitive virtual big red button can only be activated by exposed flesh - an accidental knock with a clothed elbow won't activate it. In some circumstances this is a good thing (launch missile!), in others it isn't (machines such as table saw and lathes are all fitted with big red STOP buttons that stand proud like mushrooms, and can be easily pressed from a range of angles, and are often placed so they can be pressed by a knee as well as a hand)

    2. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Touchscreens have their place

      >>>Did the manual throttles have 2 levers in 2 different places on the bridge to do the same? No?<<<

      No, not on the bridge, secondary control stations are normally far enough away to be not affected by a single impact. Warships have had duplicate controls for for throttle & steering since it became possible to do that in the 19thC (also for weapon control). The expectation in a warship is that enemy action will cause damage and duplicated systems allow the ship to be remain viable in combat and not so susceptible to a single lucky hit.

      For the tanker, touchscreen is not an issue as theres no duplication (single engine, single screw) and no expectation of trying to control the ship in anything more than a rough sea.

    3. Palpy

      Re: Touchscreens have their place -- on phones.

      Ever used any drawing program? Notice how important it is to position the cursor or pointer exactly when selecting, say, all the #00C1F0 color in an image?

      Ever notice how, as you move your finger to select on a touchscreen, your finger hides the target and a wide area around it?

      Touchscreens are inherently imprecise. If you need to control something complex, and therefore have a complex interface, don't use touchscreens.

      Which is what the Navy has decided. Wisely.

    4. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: Touchscreens have their place

      The functions of the touchscreens are assignable. That is, the various functions can be assigned to any bridge station. You don't need an official helm-station, it is whoever has the helm control functions assigned to their display, although I believe that generally the historical functions are assigned to where they would have historically been, but this is not required, as can be seen in this case by the different engine throttles being assigned to different stations.

      I believe having the 2 throttles assigned to different touchscreens - or stations - was user error rather than how the system required the controls to be assigned. Basically, someone on the bridge fucked up the configuration and/or didn't adequately communicate to the bridge crew what controls were configured to what stations. Reminiscent of the control issues on AF447.

      The fact this wasn't obvious from those stations themselves certainly points to very poor interface design, quite likely over-complicated. It also points to command communications issues, and possibly lack of training and deficient operator certification programs on the control systems.

  10. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    So, Commander Riker sat on the console again?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trying to use a touchscreen in a rolling ship or off road vehicle is a nightmare, trackballs are far saner software controls.

  12. Yet Another Hierachial Anonynmous Coward

    Thought it was just me....

    I thought I was the only one who hated touch screens on everything...... Good to know I am not alone.

  13. don't you hate it when you lose your account

    Maybe one of the

    Throttle touch screens was on a Facebook feed

    1. el kabong

      One day they will all use twitter interfaces, all battleships controlled through twitter

      Fully remote controlled with a few human helpers on site to do the menial work, they will all be replaced later by advanced robots.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: One day they will all use twitter interfaces, all battleships controlled through twitter

        .... then you get a president twitter-maniac and known for misspellings and incendiary contents....

  14. Tim Greenwood

    Training ?

    Whilst agreeing that maybe touchscreens are not the greatest idea for basic controls on a warship. I have to wonder about the apparent appalling lack of training there must be if the helmsman didn't know he needed to throttle back both drives. This is about as basic as it gets on board a vessel or indeed other powered craft (twin or multi engined aircraft, tracked vehicles etc).

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Training ?

      Erm, the article even says it. He thought he had throttled back both drives. Seeing as his touchscreen control was only showing one throttle.

      Which shows a horible lack of training or panic stations setting in. But then that's why you make your fucking controls useable! So this sort of confusion can't happen.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Training ?

        Training can only simulate intense and panicked situations so far, hence the importance of clear and unambiguous controls.

        Classic example: an older US bomber aircraft, the landing gear switch was next to an identical looking switch for something else. In some stressful landing situations, the wrong switch was activated, resulting in crashes. The redesigned switch had a physical representation of a wheel on it, and this cause of crashes dropped drastically.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Training ?

          Actually, today most critical controls on a plane have different shapes so you can 'feel' them while also looking outside...

  15. deevee

    Windows 10 has all but dropped touch support too, unless you have a tablet, its not used much on desktop or laptops at all.

    Tesla owners will be the next ones having more accidents that other drivers, using phones in cars is already banned, due to the distraction they cause.

    Can't say I'm surprised, a touch screen is never a proper replacement for a physical control.

  16. Gene Cash Silver badge

    SpaceX Crew Dragon

    This is what bothers me about the almost all-touchscreen UI on the Crew Dragon. What if someone's helmet goes into it in zero-g? I've seen situations where not only does the glass spider, but it starts registering dozens of false touches. I would think that would be "bad" on a spacecraft control panel.

    They had the problem on Apollo 11 where an astronaut broke the ascent engine enable switch with his backpack, so weird shit happens.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: SpaceX Crew Dragon

      1, most of the time the crew in the Crew Dragon will be passengers, with control being done from Earth at Mission Control.

      2 Touchscreens are only interfaces; what can be done on one screen can be done on another.

      3 There are physical controls beneath the touch screens, should for some reason Earth based mission control fails and the touch screens also all fail

      4, there is a large lever marked EJECT that must be pulled then twisted to activate.

      5, There are four astronauts working with SpaceX to design, test and simulate the controls. They're all engineers as well as test pilots, so know far more than me.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: SpaceX Crew Dragon

      Right at the start of the space program, engineers realised that actually it was better all round if the spacecraft didn't rely on humans to control, it.

      So if the screens on a crew Dragon get smashed? Fine. It's already pre-programmed, it'll go and do it's job.

  17. Clive Galway

    I was thinking along similar lines when I saw the interior of the SpaceX dragon capsule

    Looks like it is all touch screens - seems bonkers in an inherently high vibration environment

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: I was thinking along similar lines when I saw the interior of the SpaceX dragon capsule

      See above. Missions will largely be controlled from Earth. There are redundant physical buttons below the touchscreens. The eject mechanism is a large lever. I don't think the test pilot / engineers who are helping design the capsule before being the first to ride it are bonkers - I suspect they have psych tests to prove it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I was thinking along similar lines when I saw the interior of the SpaceX dragon capsule

        "helping design the capsule before being the first to ride it"

        Now there's an idea. For any potentially life-critical application, have the person who designed the system be the first tester. "Your life depends on this working properly. Make SURE it will!"

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: I was thinking along similar lines when I saw the interior of the SpaceX dragon capsule

          "Your life depends on this working properly. Make SURE it will!"

          That works very well until you get a rash of completely novel suicides.

  18. m4r35n357

    Point and Grunt

    'nuff said.

  19. Dedobot

    Let's just hope the control hubs of the nuclear delivery vehicles are free from touch screens.

  20. SVV

    Dumb reductive thinking

    This is the school of thought that says : everything is ultimately controlled by software, therefore everything is really an application, therefore everything should be implemented as a touch screen app.

    There are many reasons why physical controls are better for many applications, not least of which is that the ease of use of them makes them feel "natural" and users can concentrate on what they want to do rather than what they have to do to achieve it.

    The dumbfuckery of "oh iPads are so great, let's use them for everything!" did of course spread to many places : I know of one company where input intensive data processing applications were all moved onto tablete "so users could access them anywhere" and productivity fell almost as rapidly as staff turnover rates rose.

  21. Peter Prof Fox

    Pothole resistance

    If you're twiddling a knob when you go over a pothole then it's no great issue. But if you're fingering a screen the bump (a) moves your finger (b) causes you to 'click/press'. Great. Wonderful. Now what's happened! Certainly not what you were expecting.

    1. Scott 53

      Re: Pothole resistance

      If you're twiddling a knob when you go over a pothole then it's no great issue

      I, er, beg to differ. Depends whose which knob it is.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pothole resistance

        Tell that to Gillian Taylforth! (Is this reference too old?)

        1. MJB7
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Pothole resistance


          Icon: Ms Taylforth is not Ms Hilton, but it's as close as I can get.

  22. Deimos

    iPads are great.

    I use mine for 95% of my daily information intake and rare comments But on a warship bridge ? Hell no.

    They are an excellent part of a CIC but not for things like rudder and engine telegraphs.

  23. DrXym Silver badge

    Touchscreen usability

    Touchscreens are fine for some stuff but not for frequently used actions that rely on "muscle memory". Nor for actions that have a safety / critical system aspect to them. Nor for things where a tactile response is necessary to register the action happened.

    So I could totally see a ship using touchscreens to display navigational data or showing a bunch of diagnostics or informational stuff. But things related to actually steering or powering the ship should be hard controls.

  24. pstiles

    Heart Of Gold

    Insert description of how its controls worked here.

    Accept thumbs-ups.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Heart Of Gold

      I believe it showered the crew with polystyrene packing nuggets and was all wrapped up in cellophane.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Heart Of Gold

      Oh. And have three thumbs up... one from each arm.

  25. jmch Silver badge

    I can't beieive I'm the first...

    ... to bring up Windows for Warships!

    1. Bob.

      Re: I can't beieive I'm the first...

      It's called "XP", isn't it?

  26. bpfh Silver badge

    So.... Star Trek is not the technological utopia we were led to believe?

    LCARS was always advertised as being great :p

  27. batfink Silver badge

    Who let this into Production?

    I can't understand how this managed to pass any UAT.

    Being virtual controls, was it perhaps tested in a virtual environments? Some shore-based darkened room somewhere? Rather, than, say on an actual ship in some serious kind of sea state, never mind combat conditions? Who the hell thinks touchscreens are a good idea in an environment prone to violent pitching/rolling/yawing/all three, even without combat conditions?

    Or perhaps tested by pimply yoofs who would just say "Touch-screen? Cool! I used to drive ships in Game X in my bedroom so of course this'll be no problem now I'm in der Navy"?

  28. Cynic_999

    I see no problem ...

    A child suddenly runs into the path of your car. Simply touch the "Main menu" button on the touchscreen, go to page 2, select "Other" then "Motion Control." Now select the "Braking system" menu item. Ensure that ABS is set to "Active" (if not return to the main menu and set it (in the "Auxiliary services" menu). Then touch the "Emergency brake" button. When the next screen appears requesting timing information, press "Immediately". There will be a warning message about ensuring that your seat belt is secure. Touch "OK". Then again at the "Are you sure?" message. The car will then be brought to a stop as quickly as possible.

    What's so difficult about that?

  29. John Savard

    Voyager Was Prophetic

    And to think that Captain Janeway thought that Tom Paris was merely indulging his "Captain Proton" fantasies when he put physical controls into his bridge station! It turns out he had the right idea!

  30. Grunchy Bronze badge

    EXACTLY like Tesla

    My Tesla has two throttle controls, the left wheels are under my command and the right wheels are under my wife's command. Equality, huh? Anyway, its a difficult system especially at a certain day of the month.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    What a stupid idea

    If they realized a ship still needs a 'wheel' why couldn't they realize it needs a physical/tactile throttle too. Touchscreens have their place, for functions that are not critical to the operation of the ship. Anything that ships did 100 years ago they should have physical controls.

    I hope they don't have the button to fire a missile on a touchscreen, I hope it is still a physical button with a plastic cap over it, and lights up when a target has been entered and only allows firing when it is lit up and the plastic cap is lifted - you do not want to accidentally fire if you are quickly working the touchscreen, get onto the wrong screen before you realize and fire a missile!

    I hope the same is true for lowering the anchor, you don't want to accidentally do that while you're executing a tight turn in shallow waters or you may cause hundreds of injuries.

    I guess whoever designed this watched too much (non TOS) Star Trek and fell in love with an all touchscreen interface, because "futuristic"!

  32. Ian Joyner Bronze badge

    Silly idea

    Who thought using a touch screen for controlling a ship was a good idea. As someone else said they are not good in cars either.

    This is not a good USAGE (notice a good English word instead of the pretentious 'use-case').

    It is not the fault of iPads (could be any manufacturers, but Reg picks on Apple). When I play iTunes in the car, it is very difficult to control. I'd much rather the feel of physical buttons. Screens are logical rather than physical – the buttons can move on the screen depending on what mode you are in.

    The usage of any touch screen for such a function is not good usage.

  33. the Jim bloke Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    We have already pointed out

    .. how stupid it is to try and use the same interface for desktop computers, and small hand held devices.

    Extending the interface to large mechanical devices is a deliberate denial of reality

  34. Bob.

    I nearly failed my Electrical and Electronic Eng. degree in the 80s (because I was immature, depressed and got pissed all the time)

    I missed half my lectures and practicals in 2nd year, and 80% in 3rd year)

    Nevertheless, I got a good (job designing bits of Dealing Room Systems, for the Banks)

    We incorporated the early Amber/Orange touchscreens (as used on submarines) to complement normal IBM/PC keyboards.

    The software guys had control of that. Fairly simple for them and it worked well.

    Except, Dealers get quite upset when they lose substantial money on a Trade.

    On numerous occasions, they would smash their screens with the telephone handsets, breaking both.

    Prob $2000 damage each time. We stopped using the touchscreens.

    The Dealers were a pain anyway. "We want Porsche screen savers". They were Gods, Masters of the Universe, cos' they made millions.

    In spite of my crappy degree, I did actually have a brain and taught myself good technical design skills and good engineering and safety practice. I did some [simple] software too.

    No Google, but there were plenty of Datasheets, with example circuits and firmware/software books.

    In short, I found I was a pretty good engineer after all.

    I played What-Ifs all the time and noted that coding take lots of Error Handling and be easy to use, as well as 'pretty'

    (To this day, Non-intuitive, Context Sensitive Menus and Options irk me)

    I tried to make everything as robust and fail-safe as possible, with redundant options.

    Of course, I have also made lots of mistakes, but overall I'm happy with my MTBC (Mean Time Between Cockups)

    Finger Troubles...

    My first semi biggie was just designing a 96 way patch panel for coax cables in a 19" cabinet. (Several boards needed in each)

    Really, I should have insisted on 64 way, space was a bit tight and my manager insisted that more PCBs and cabinet space (or even cabinets) was unacceptable.

    But it was fine. Until 6 weeks later when the Installation engineers tried to install the first of several hundred boards (rushed into production from my couple of perfect prototypes).

    I have slim fingers. Many of the field guys had sausage fingers. They couldn't get their fingers into the panel bayonet connectors.

    Big oops. I'd done well on my other [complex] board designs and I'd expensively messed up on a bloody patch panel.

    Fortunately, all was well. The Install/Maintenance engineers designed themselves a special low-cost tool to plug and unplug the cables.

    Over my career I've come across engineers from genius to shockingly bad (and Managers/Directors).

    Mistakes are human. Multiple mistakes (often the same ones) are unforgiveable.

    Sorry this is a bit TLDR


      They are called trompettas.

  35. Adalat

    Of course, this is why modern cars need autopilot, for when the driver is fiddling with the touch screen.

    Seriously, how long has the helmsman been at the helm that he didn't realise he needed to work both throttles together.

    And the two throttles are on different screens? Needing two hands? Off the wheel? How far apart are these screens?

    Is it not possible to navigate these warships with lights out condition?

    God help them if they ever need to navigate a ship under fire, if the midshipman has to step up because the captain is in pieces on the floor.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  36. Bob.

    Bit more on fingers...

    I'm intrigued by operating machines/switches/buttons in high vibration/turbulent or high g-force environments, especially with gloves.

    Aircraft/ships/spacecraft (on ascent or re-entry)

    I have trouble texting on a train, from my Android phone.

    Actually, even from my armchair, and remember, I have slim fingers.

  37. hoofie

    Command Failure

    From what I've read of it the ultimate problem was a poisonous command atmosphere, lack of training and shortage of personnel.

    It's a warship being navigated - it literally is not rocket science, navies have been doing it around the world for centuries.

    The US military hammers down any individuality in it's Officers and Men - Ratings are trained for one task alone and not encouraged to think out of the box. It's stunning that the bridge on a US Navy Warship could be so dis-functional - but it was.


    Newer is always better

    The Royal Navy also likes pointless change.

    Formica is cheaper than wood or metal and much easier to keep clean. You can have a nice, shiny boat if you use Formica.

    That cotton outerwear the ratings have looks awfully crumpled and unmilitary. Replace it all with polyester.

    After that unpleasantness in The Falklands, top brass realised that Formica splinters into thousands of shards and flechettes in an explosion. None of which show up on X-rays, which is handy.

    Also, cotton anti-flash doesn't melt onto your skin, unlike the plastic stuff.

    Must have shiny.

    1. MadDrFrank

      Re: Newer is always better

      Not only the Navy -- they may have to take what builders give them.

      In 1959, I took a pre-university gap year working for a company building instruments some parts of which were intended to run at high temperature. From previous reading of Trade press and catalogues of electronic component suppliers, I was aware of readily available MIL-SPEC wire insulated with heat resistant material, unlike the very meltable and combustable PVC I used at home. Not an enormous difference in price.

      As school kid with electronics as a hobby, I had no difficulty finding this out -- and seeing the point of using it.

      A long time later I read that PVC-insulated wiring on HMS Sheffield contributed to the fire (fierce combustion igniting other structural components, plus toxic fumes), and wondered how the builders could have been so negligent.

      Cf. NASA and Apollo 1 -- flammable insulation in 100% oxygen.

      Now I am old and cynical, and am beginning to understand.

  39. dave 93

    This has nothing to do with iPads

    But you know that anyway, don't you...

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And so here we are


    "As the warship approached the busy shipping lane off of Singapore, an attempt to split the steering and throttle to two different consoles in fact transferred all controls to the lee helmsman – a sailor who was less familiar with the intricacies of the IBNS and had not slept the night before. The mistake led the helmsman to believe he had lost control of the ship. Meanwhile, the ship’s throttles – operated by touch screen – became unlinked."

    1. David Shaw

      Re: And so here we are

      And those AIS laptops, I have bought AIS ...., Abramovich! ,....... with the correct MMSIs. (oops, TMI)

      So reading further, these are likely AIS RX & display Laptops, as USN policy was to keep AIS 'OFF'

  41. DartfordMan

    A long time ago I briefly worked on the electronics on battle tanks. The principle was 'who ever gets their electronics in first gets to pick the best spot'. No planning or organisation. I'd assumed that modern technology would have got beyond that and thought about ergonomics. Apparently that's for the next release :-)

  42. Bob Whitcombe

    But don't you have to pass a Driver's test?

    While I accept that a flat panel UI does not provide the level of feedback of a haptic throttle with reinforcing feedback - these are $250M ships. Don't we train the heck out of a helmsman before they get placed in grade to helm a ship?

    I saw the kind of job Sulu (John Cho) did on the Enterprise using touch screens - and actually expected to have progressed a fair way with the UI for modern subs, destroyers etc. Obviously not. But I am drawing the line at steam donkey's and cable winches.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: But don't you have to pass a Driver's test?

      The alternative reality Enterprise you refer to has a couple of motor-boat throttle levers... on the left of the console, quite high up. There are also a couple of joystick controls on the right, but I don't recall seeing those being used. I believe there's a scene in the film where Pike asks Sulu if he left the parking brake on, and the close up of the throttle levers is about that point in time. IIRC.

  43. Man inna barrel

    Soft keys

    I detest touch screen interfaces for most things. My character error rate on texting is typically around 20%, using a modern mobile phone. I am seeing much more touch screen interface stuff on complex test equipment like spectrum analysers. One of the problems I first encountered was pointing out some interesting feature on the screen, and the stupid instrument responded to my touch and Did Something. So I had to reset to defaults and start again.

    I have quickly glossed the comments, and I am surprised that I could not find a reference to a soft key interface. This is where the interface has a graphical screen surrounded by anonymous physical buttons. The functions of the hardware keys can vary depending on what task or mode the user has selected, and adjacent labels on the screen tell the user what the current function of each button is. I really like this system for controlling complex test equipment. It is often augmented by a numeric keypad and spin wheel.

    I will grant that this interface is more expensive to implement than a touch screen, but for complex RF test kit and military stuff, it would appear to be vastly superior. The screen and buttons can be made very rugged. And it still has the advantage that button names/functions are programmable in firmware, and not hard wired.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    255 comments so far

    And I wonder how many posters have actually been on a ship's bridge (or engine room). :)

    1. holmegm

      Re: 255 comments so far

      I have. Touch screens would have been a very bad idea.

      In fact, much of the tech was *quite* outdated (even for the time, which was quite some time ago), but that was because it was tried and tested and worked well. Stuff had to be certified to actually work and be safe.

      That was in engineering though, things were indeed fancier up forward. Apparently that's not a good thing ...

  45. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Controls for humans

    Touchscreens are easy to implement and can be changed around endlessly which is great for companies that thrive on modifying UIs and driving their customers nuts with every update. The big problem is there is no tactile feedback and all of ones attention has to be focused on a screen to make sure the proper control is being manipulated and how much. The issue is exacerbated when it's a moving vehicle of any sort. I look at SpaceX's crewed capsule mockup/PR photos with an array of touch screens and wonder how the hell astronauts wearing bulky gloves are going to do anything on those screens while being vibrated like mad. Take a look at the ancient Apollo capsules and the controls were well spaced and provided with guards so a finger doesn't slip off and hit the self destruct button instead of the overhead light. Imagine trying to control a dragster with a touchscreen. It's all the driver can do to make sure they are going straight down the track for those few seconds so the cars all have big chunky levers whose location is in muscle memory.

    A navy ship with dedicated controls for the operators is the better way to go. That's not to say that they aren't fly-by-wire and as a back up the ship can be operated with an iPad in the case of an emergency. A more neo-mechanical UI for the ship's drivers lets them keep their head up so they can respond to the officers quickly and precisely.

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