For decades, automakers have searched for ways to cut every possible penny from their costs, without making it obvious to prospective buyers. They experimented with putting the gauge cluster into the middle of the car, with moving physical controls into touch-screens, and with converting every possible knob into buttons. The only problem is that none of these solutions are good for the driver. The up-down buttons, in particular, make the driver visually search for the button, and then press and hold up or down — not ideal in a moving car.
We’ve seen rheostats, temperature controls, fan controls, and such replaced by up and down buttons. These buttons are slow, clumsy, and often hard to “feel out” without taking your eyes from the road. The worst ones were volume controls — yes, they tried that. The climate control up/down buttons above aren’t nearly as insane, but they aren’t ideal, either — in function or in looks. But now, look at the ones below…
The three levers can be lifted up or pushed down, and either direction is easier in a moving car than holding a button in. The setup looks good, and is easy to operate. Admittedly, replacing the vent knob or button series with an up/down is still insane, but at least you can set the temperature and fan speed easily, while the automaker — Toyota, in this case — gets to eliminate a knob.
The rocker can replace two buttons with a single one — with a better tactile feel; a nicer look; and a little more speed, because you can search for it with your fingers, not your eyes, even if you’re wearing gloves. It’s easier to lift or push a rocker that sticks out than a button that depresses in, and you can even use the rocker switches on the steering wheel — as the Hyundai Elantra does.
The big question is not “should we replace our panoply of steering wheel buttons with these nice up/down levers?” but “what are these called?” Are they rocker switches or toggles? Let’s hear what you think!
The author of Dodge Viper, Jeep’s Wagoneer, Gladiator, Comanche, and Scrambler Go-Anywhere Vehicles, and The Rise and Reinvention of Chrysler Minivans, David Zatz has been writing about cars and trucks since the early 1990s; he also writes on organizational development and business at toolpack.com and covers Mac statistics software at macstats.org. His latest book, for kids, is Meet the Jeep.
David has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. You can reach him by using our contact form.