Touchscreens have become widespread in modern cars, replacing many physical buttons and knobs that previously controlled various functions. But are touchscreens truly superior to buttons, or are they making driving more challenging and risky?
Some automakers and drivers prefer touchscreens for their sleek and futuristic look, as well as their ability to offer more features and customization. Tesla, for example, has pioneered the use of large touchscreens in its vehicles, and other brands have followed suit. To Uch screens can also integrate with smartphones and voice assistants, making them more convenient and versatile.
However, touchscreens also have many drawbacks. They can be hard to see in bright sunlight or at night, they can be prone to glitches and malfunctions, and they can be difficult to clean. More importantly, touchscreens can be more distracting and time-consuming than buttons, as drivers have to look at the screen and navigate through menus to perform simple tasks.
A recent study by the Swedish automotive magazine Vi Bilägare tested 12 cars with different infotainment systems and found that it took much longer to do four common tasks with touchscreens than with buttons. The tasks were: turning on the heated seat and the defroster, tuning the radio to a specific station, resetting the trip computer, and adjusting the instrument lights. The study found that it took only 10 seconds to do these tasks in a 17-year-old Volvo V70 with physical buttons, but up to 45 seconds in a new MG Marvel R with a touchscreen.
The study concluded that touchscreens are harder to use than buttons because they require more visual attention and cognitive effort from the driver. This can increase the risk of accidents, especially at high speeds. The study also noted that some touchscreens are poorly designed and have confused or illological menus.
Some drivers and experts agree that touchscreens are not suitable for cars and that physical buttons are easier and safer to use. Buttons are tactile and can be operated by touch alone, without taking the eyes off the road. Buttons also have a consistent location and function, unlike touchscreens that can change depending on the mode or context.
However, not all touchscreens are created equal. Some automakers have tried to balance the advantages of touchscreens with the convenience of buttons by offering redundant controls for some functions or by using haptic feedback or knobs to complement the screen. Some touchscreens also have better graphics, responsiveness, and usability than others.
The debate over touchscreens vs. buttons in cars is unlikely to end soon, as technology evolves and consumer preferences change. However, one thing is clear: drivers should always prioritize safety over style when choosing their infotainment system.