That Touchscreen In Your Car Is Nothing New — It Dates Back To 1986

Touchscreens are so commonplace in daily life today that it’s hard to imagine a time before we had them. They have replaced conventional controls on everything from cellphones to refrigerators. While you may be marveling at the addition of touchscreens to cars, it might surprise you to learn that the first car to use one arrived more than 30 years ago. Denounced for its small size and lackluster styling, the 1986 Buick Riviera pioneered the concept of the “infotainment” system — a development that evolved from car radios. Buick installed the experimental CRT systems in a test fleet of 100 Rivieras and gave them to dealers across the country to assess customer reaction. Once the door opened, the display would come on, revealing the Riviera logo. If the screen wasn’t touched within 30 seconds, it would shut off. If the ignition was switched on, the display went to its home page, which handled 90% of the driver’s needs. It controlled automatic climate control, AM/FM radio with optional graphic equalizer, trip calculations, gauges, and vehicle diagnostic information. Tapping any section would cause the menus to go deeper. For instance, touching the diagnostics page would display the status of the powertrain, electrical system, brakes, and other vehicle data. GM finally dropped the system in 1992, and it would be another 15 years before any automaker came close to matching what Buick launched in 1986.