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Test confirms what we already knew, physical buttons in cars are better than touchscreens

By Kenny Yeo - on 26 Aug 2022, 9:58am

Test confirms what we already knew, physical buttons in cars are better than touchscreens

(Image source: Autoevolution)

A test conducted by Vi Bilägare found that physical buttons and switches were easier to use and more effective than touchscreens.

This confirms what most keen drivers have already known for years. Touchscreens, though undeniably swankier to look at and more cost-effective for manufacturers, are often harder and more dangerous because the buttons cannot be located through touch. 

Vi Bilägare lined up 12 cars and measured how long it took to complete four simple tasks while travelling at a speed of 110km/h.

The cars were

  • BMW iX
  • Dacia Sandero
  • Hyundai Ioniq 5
  • Mercedes GLB
  • MG Marvel R
  • Nissan Qashqai
  • Seat Leon
  • Subaru Outback
  • Tesla Model 3
  • Volkswagen ID.3
  • Volvo C40
  • Volvo V70 (2005)

These tasks were:

  • Activate the heated seat and increase the temperature by two degrees, then start the defroster
  • Start the radio and adjust the station to a specific station (Sweden's Program 1)
  • Reset trip computer
  • Turn the instrument lighting to its lowest level and turn off the centre display

Apart from the time taken, Vi Bilägare also measured the distance travelled. 

The results were interesting. The top performing car was the Volvo V70 from 2005 which took just 10 seconds to complete all four tasks. The worst was the MG Marvel R which took an incredible 44.9 seconds.

The interior of the 2005 Volvo V70. (Image source: Vi Bilägare)

Because it took this long, the MG Marvel R actually travelled a whopping 1,372 metres in the time it took to complete all the tasks. In comparison, the Volvo V70 travelled just 306 metres.

The Tesla Model 3, which famously has an almost entirely bare cabin with only one large touchscreen and two buttons on the steering wheel, took 32.5 seconds.

Click to see full-size image. (Image source: Vi Bilägare)

Despite the obvious effectiveness and benefits of physical buttons and screens, it's unlikely that automakers will bring them back.

That's because, from a packaging perspective, touchscreen interfaces are far simpler and cheaper to implement. If a single touchscreen can replace all these buttons and knobs, they won't have to design multiple interiors for their different cars. This also makes the cars cheaper to produce.

The best we can hope for is that automakers continue to use buttons for crucial and frequently-used functions like climate controls, volume adjustment, hazard lights, and so on.

Click the link below to see the full test results.

Source: Vi Bilägare

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