The screen avoids levers and buttons in cars – a good touch screen does not deprive the driver

Car touchscreens offer almost endless possibilities for new and useful functions. But what happens when the driver's eyes move from traffic to the touchscreen for three seconds?

Car touchscreens are loved and hated. Unlike separate physical buttons and controls, touchscreens allow for almost endless add-ons and new and upgradeable functionality. Is it necessary or dangerous? The answers fall into at least two camps.

The conservative camp doesn't like touchscreens and doesn't feel the need for apps, at least not when driving.

On the other hand, diginatiivleiri like screens because in addition to useful functions, they enable various entertainment, for example at a charging station, while waiting for the car's driving battery to be filled.

Touch screens have become commonplace at a tremendous speed. The first touchscreens came to cars years ago, but in about five years they have become the standard for new cars. At the same time, traditional meters have been replaced by digital displays.

Touch screen driver required

Security should not divide opinion. This can be a bit of a pain for car factories as the security perspective doesn't support centralizing functions on touchscreens. The matter is also clear.

For example, at a speed of one hundred kilometers per hour, a car covers a distance of 28 meters in one second. A three-second glance at the touch screen, and the car has traveled nearly 100 meters without the driver's eyes on the traffic. At that time, for example, a deer accident may occur at dusk.

An interesting experiment was conducted in Sweden in 2022, in which an auto magazine We are car owners Compares how long it took to make selected changes on the touchscreens of 11 different cars. A 17-year-old Volvo V70 without a touchscreen made the comparison particularly interesting. In Finland The world of technology Published an article on the test.

The test required subjects to perform the following actions: turn on the seat and rear window heating, raise the temperature two degrees, turn on the radio and seek a specific channel, reset the trip meter, dim the instrument lights, and turn off the center console lights.

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Subjects were allowed to familiarize themselves with the cars prior to testing.

Driving speed
110 km per hour
Distance traveled by the car (metres).
During the mission
Volvo V70 (2005) 306
Dacia Sandero 414
Volvo C40 417
Subaru Outback 592
Mercedes-Benz GLB 616
Tesla Model 3 717
Nissan Qashqai 765
Volkswagen ID.3 786
Hyundai Ioniq 5 815
The seat is Leon 895
BMW iX 928
MG Marvel R 1 372

Lähde: We are car owners

In the old Volvo V70, tasks were completed in an average of ten seconds. With touchscreens, the average was 25 seconds, or two and a half times longer.

Naturally, assigned tasks are not done all at once, but in short bursts.

The Dacia Sandero and the Volvo C40 go the closest to an old-school car. These operations were handled within 14 seconds. The MG Marvel R did the worst in the test, where it took no less than 44.6 seconds to handle the operations. The point of testing is very clear with these measurement results.

Of course, safety improves a bit when you're familiar with your own car experience. A standard user learns logic and procedures to discover various functions.

New technology can be cheap

The avalanche of some new technological innovations – such as touch screens – may be due to clear customer demand or progress that car manufacturers want to gain recognition and success.

For some consumers, a car is ultimately a utilitarian object that is not charged with great emotion. That's why it doesn't matter to many whether the meter or button is physical or can be used on a glass screen. New may seem cool and interesting, and you may think that when new expensive technology becomes available, it will be good.

However, the background may be purely the financial interests of the auto industry. Sometimes a new technology is cheaper to produce, which is why a car factory's financial department pushes for rapid change.

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Creating some unique buttons and gauges may seem like a small savings. However, in mass production, the cost of each component is significant when multiplied by hundreds of thousands or even millions.

The touch screen is rarely integrated as part of the test board. The reason is the increased size and cost of screens. Here is a very successful compromise solution.

The costs aren't just about meters and buttons, the savings are far more extensive. For example, think of a typical instrument panel from the 90s, where all the gauges and buttons were designed into a unified, elegant whole. Such design and manufacture is not cheap.

For example, compare Tesla's simplified instrument panel. There isn't even a dashboard in the traditional sense, just a touchscreen in the middle, a finger computer.

Many car models are designed and manufactured for left-hand drive countries. A large number of different parts must be manufactured for a traditional instrument panel, and all of them must be available as spare parts in the future.

Advantages Modification and improvement

Of course, the avalanche of touchscreens isn't just due to cost savings. The increase in electronics and communication technology in cars inevitably leads to new solutions.

As the number of different adjustments and functions in cars has increased, the dashboard cannot fit enough buttons to control them all.

A clear advantage of digital screens is their adaptability and upgradeability. The driver can choose the gauge display of his choice, on the other hand, the touchscreen is always switched off if driving is interrupted.

Touch screens_Volvo_Picture_Patrik_Lindström_TT0424.jpg

The modern execution of the Volvo EX30 represents style and fashion from 2024. Almost a very reduced Tesla-like line. It is special that there is nothing directly in front of the driver. How does safety pioneer Volvo explain the fact that we now have to turn our attention to it? Photo: Volvo Cars

An important feature for car manufacturers in new cars is that the technology can be updated over the wireless data network “on the air”, i.e. through OTA updates.

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For example, a new software update developed by the factory can be loaded into the car at night, which reduces the car's energy consumption and increases its range. This is especially true for electric cars. So you can even think that the car will become old.

One example of a truly useful tool that touch screens provide is, of course, the navigator. Few would be willing to turn the navigator into a paper map.

Aesthetic or ugly?

What about the aesthetics of the car's cockpit? How do touchscreens affect it?

This is a topic that can divide opinion. However, I personally think that digital meters and glass screens were a step in the wrong direction when judging design and aesthetics.Mersun_kosetusnäytot_.jpg

From Mercedes-Benz CLK 1998. Even in the 90s, it was allowed to use colors. Did interior designers have more power compared to cost calculators on the financial side? Very innovative processing.

At best, the 90s car dashboard with gauges is like a work of art. In such a cockpit, one feels somehow comfortable and pleasant. There is a feeling that things are under control. Maybe I'm old fashioned in this regard.

On the other hand, it is understandable that nowadays interior designers prefer smooth surfaces, in which they want to do away with traditional gauges and buttons. Above all, there is design and aesthetics. Design and art are not ambiguous. There are always different styles and different schools of thought. Some are certainly attracted by the modern, stripped-down dashboard display.

Read more: Touch screens are here to stay in cars – we're looking for a balance between screens and buttons >>

Markus Niemenen

In the opening image, Anna Nieminen selects a radio channel from a Volkswagen's touchscreen. It is best to take care of emergency checks and adjustments before the ride begins. Photo: Patrik Lindström

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