What is the Acura True Touchpad interface?

Thanks to reversing cameras and regulations on safety equipment, almost all new vehicles are equipped with a screen on the dashboard. Additionally, automakers have come up with different ways to interact with this screen, taking cars far beyond the simplicity of a touchscreen. Some are installing rotary dials, and some are opting for a mousepad-style trackpad, but Acura has taken a different approach.

Called the True Touchpad Interface, Acura’s infotainment system lets users control the display using a location-aware touchpad that eschews the “traditional” swiping motion with a design that reacts to or the user touches the pad. Most Acura vehicles come with the system, except those where there is a traditional shifter or limited space.

As with anything new, Acura has seen mixed reactions and reviews of its True Touchpad interface over the years, ranging from people who love having a new way to interact with their car to those who don’t see the interest in recreating the wheel.

Rather than featuring a touchscreen, Acura’s True Touchpad system controls infotainment options using a flat plastic interface in the center console. It almost looks like the touchpad of a mouse on a laptop, but its intended use is different.

Acura’s touchpad interface uses what the automaker calls “absolute positioning technology.” This means that a pressure on an area of ​​the pad corresponds to a reaction on the same area of ​​the screen. The system divides screen space into blocks that work with the segmented touchpad to create a faster way to navigate infotainment options.

The touchpad interacts with most of the screen, but a separate touchpad controls another smaller part of the screen. Unlike the main pad, the smaller Touch Unit is primarily intended for scrolling through a few additional screens to the side of the screen. Users can view audio information, time and other data on the smallest part of the screen.

First, the good stuff: the Acura touchpad (and all other touchpads, for that matter) gives the driver a more ergonomic method of controlling the infotainment system. Short people and those with mobility issues may struggle to reach forward to interact with a touchscreen, so a touchpad offers a less constraining way to control the system. It can also reduce distraction and allow the driver to get their hands back on the wheel more quickly.

User reviews and complaints of Acura’s touchpad system tend to revolve around absolute positioning technology, as it’s not the number of people who expect a touchpad interface to includes. Smartphones have trained our brains to expect a swipe-and-drag motion to navigate up or down in a menu, so the action of pressing a specific part of a touchpad feels little intuitive at first glance.

Once the learning curve is over, the system becomes much easier to use, but there are still situations where a touchscreen would be preferable. The first is scrolling through long menus where a long swipe can quickly move the list, but repeatedly tapping and moving the touchpad becomes boring. The biggest problem is with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, where the positioning system doesn’t work as well, and the user has to swipe on the touchpad instead.

Most Acura models come with the trackpad interface, but a few don’t. The MDX, RDX and TLX have push-button shifters, which house the touchpad in the center console. The ILX sedan has a traditional shifter and no room for the pad, and Acura mounted the NSX supercar’s push-button shifter on a narrow center console with no extra space. The upcoming 2023 Integra will also have a shifter instead of a trackpad when released.

Other automakers outside of Acura have taken similar approaches, but without absolute positioning technology. Lexus used trackpads in several of its models, but did not receive widespread acclaim. Mercedes also uses a similar system in its cars, but it works more like a traditional mouse pad.

The Acura True Touchpad Interface infotainment system is just another way to interact with your car, but it may be outside the norm for many people. Although it doesn’t take long to learn, the touchpad is a departure from a traditional touchscreen or trackpad-like controllers. It’s also not as intuitive as a rotary dial, where there are only two directions a user can select. That said, it is essential to try the system for yourself, as it is neither as bad as some say nor as innovative as others think. If you’re comfortable with the trackpad, it’s a perfectly acceptable method of controlling your car’s infotainment system.

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