From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Desk to Dashboard: The Journey of a Mouse

‘Mouse’ might be the best way to describe the seemingly ‘all in one’ controller in the new BMW 7-series cars. Settled between the two front seats, the mouse is used to input data to a dashboard screen. The satin-aluminum controller can be pushed down like a knob, turned left or right like a dial, and moved in any of eight compass-point directions to change radio stations, make phone calls, set up a navigation route and adjust air flow.

While supporters of the system, which is called iDrive, say that good ergonomics have been used to condense numerous operations into one area, opponents find the mouse and screen just another distraction for drivers.

BMW of North America chief executive officer Tom Purvis stated that the previous 7-Series model had so many switches, knobs and buttons on its dash that some owners were confused or intimidated. BMW feels the new iDrive system will keep driver attention focused on steering and traffic because drivers using the mouse rely on touch, rather than on vision.

Stephanie Faul, spokeswoman for the nonprofit AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said that, “simply keeping your eyes on the road is not enough. If this requires some real cognitive activity, it could be quite distracting. People are trying to do too many things in their cars besides drive.”

Car makers Nissan, Saab, and Audi have also said they will introduce similar technology soon.