Auto Innovation

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Technology Partners Automotive

The very first touchscreen in a car looked awful and the touchscreen beeped a lot, but damn, was it futuristic.

Buick isn’t exactly known for its cutting-edge technology, at least not today. Nowadays, when people think of Buick, they think of the elderly. Or they think of massive sales success in China. Or both. But that wasn’t

always true, at least when it comes to cutting-edge tech. Buick created the world’s first

production car with a touchscreen, the 1986 Riviera. The “Graphic Control Center” was in color (all two of

them) and let drivers control features like climate control and the radio.

Buicks first touchscreen car

But the GCC did much more than just let a driver adjust the radio’s volume and the A/C. You could run a vehicle diagnostic and get information on the brakes, powertrain, and electrical system. It would even tell you how much gas was left in the car. You could also use it to track your trip. All of those features may sound pedestrian but remember that this is the 1980s we’re talking about, and this is an American production car, not some Italian supercar. At 3×4 inches, the screen itself wasn’t very large, but the unit was. It was a cathode-ray tube design, basically a miniature TV shoved into the dash. Reaction to the touchscreen was about the same across the board. Outlets like Popular Mechanics praised the tech and bashed ( /carchaeology-1986-buick-riviera-introduces-the­touchscreen-15437094/) the ergonomics.

Figure 3: Heating Element/Reservoir

The Christian Science Monitor was sufficiently wowed, saying, “no other automaker offers the motorist so much information at the touch of a button. Tl1ey also said it was a barrel of fun! My how times have changed. But like Popular Mechanics, the Monitor noted that the touchscreen was distracting and took the driver’s attention off the road. This led to the death of the touchscreen in 1990, although it did see life in the short-lived Buick Reatta. This piece of cutting-edge tech wasn’t enough to save Buick from GM’s downward spiral. Riviera sales dropped a stunning 70 percent in 1986. It wasn’t the GCC’s fault, but it’s hard for new tech to gain acceptance when it’s in so few cars.

As mentioned earlier, Buick isn’t exactly known for producing tech-savvy cars today. But that wasn’t always the case and may not be the case going forward. History repeats itself, as seen in the Avista concept. Forget about the two-door looks for a second and focus on that interior, which took a mini-scandal to create. It’s like something straight out of a sci-fl film/BMW i. Could Buick be gearing up to drop another tech bomb on the world? It seems unlikely, but so was a touchscreen as an option on a car in the mid-1980s, and we all know how that worked out.

Ascencioné® continues to do innovations first even in 2024. Look at our long list of automotive industry firsts! What can we help YOU do with your car NEXT?

Check out this awesome video if you’re dying to see the GCC in action. Do your best not to go nuts every damn time the screen makes a beep … which is every time you press it.

Figure 5: Temperature Rise
1989 Buick Riviera w/CRT Interface Demo Start Up, Exhaust, and in Depth Review
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