Shocked! In cars, physical buttons are easier than touchscreens

  • You probably already know this, but newer cars with multiple menu screens take longer to perform specific functions. If you didn’t already know it, a Swedish auto magazine proved it with science.
  • Vi Bilägare tested a dozen vehicles – mainly new but one was a 2005 Volvo – to see how long it took to complete a series of four tasks. 10 seconds on older cars and up to 45 on newer models.
  • By timing actions while the vehicle is moving, we can see how something as simple as turning on the radio to a particular station can keep the driver’s eyes and focus on the screen more than before.

    Future drivers may look back at the current trend of replacing simple, physical buttons with touchscreens and wonder why we let this happen. For example, the Volkswagen ID.4 uses an almost entirely digital dashboard (pictured below) that makes using the infotainment system a headache. Eliminating or minimizing the number of physical buttons may seem neat, but a new report from Sweden shows how touchscreens and endless pages of menus are, in a sense, causing distracted driving.

    2023 Volkswagen ID inside.4.


    Swedish Automotive Magazine We car owners It was recently proven that physical buttons are safer than touchscreens by looking at how long it takes to perform simple, everyday tasks. The magazine asked its reviewers to do four common tasks while they were driving:

    1. Turn on the heated seat, raise the temperature two degrees, and start the defroster.
    2. Turn on the radio and tune in to a specific station (Sweden’s program 1).
    3. Reset the trip computer.
    4. Turn the instrument lights to their lowest setting and turn off the center display.
      1. Before starting the stopwatches, the test drivers were given time to familiarize themselves with how to perform these tasks in the various cars. The 12-car lineup included the touchscreen-heavy Tesla Model 3 and BMW iX as well as the Seat Leon and a Dacia Sandero. For comparison, We car owners Also introduced is the 17-year-old Volvo V70 which has physical buttons. (Pictured above: a similarly equipped 2007 Volvo S60.)

        2022 bmw ix

        Tesla Model 3 infotainment screen

        The magazine timed the drivers as they drove the respective vehicle at 68 mph while performing each task. Interestingly, the 2005 Volvo V70 with its dedicated buttons took users at least 10 seconds to perform the four functions. The new BMW iX took three times as long to complete four tasks: 30.4 seconds, but even that’s not as bad as the MG Marvel R, which required 44.9 seconds.

        We car owners Says it’s not just the lack of buttons that could be the problem. The design of the infotainment system also plays a big role. The system in the iX, for example, is one of the most complex and complex user interfaces ever designed, the magazine said. The Seat Leon’s touch-sensitive climate control buttons lack backlights, making them difficult to use at night.

        By timing the drivers on how long it took them to change the settings, the publication was able to come up with the distance these drivers drove (at 68 mph, remember) while pushing the buttons. It was eight-tenths of a mile (1372 m) for the MG Marvel R to over 1000 feet (306 m) in the 2005 Volvo. Other vehicles hit around 600 to 900 meters, the Dacia Sandero and Volvo C40 both at 400 meters below.

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