Research: Physical buttons are safer than touchscreens

Modern cars are full of touchscreens and have fewer and fewer physical buttons. This trend of the time has made simple functions, such as adjusting the sound of the infotainment system, as well as adjusting the air conditioner, require extra effort and time from the driver, while at the same time their adjustment has become more difficult, requiring the driver to take his eyes off the road, thus increasing his distraction, with all this implies in the field of safety.

According to the results of a survey conducted by the Swedish We Appendixcars with touchscreens, in the worst case, turned out to take up to four times longer compared to the same action with a physical button.

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A total of 12 cars were tested, 11 with touchscreens and 1 with physical buttons, with testers finding the menus of the BMW iX and Seat Leon complex and it’s easy to get lost in their sub-menus, with the MG Marvel R it was the worst of all.

After familiarizing themselves with the use of each system, the testers drove the cars down an airport runway at a steady 110 km/h and had to activate the heated seat, raise the air conditioning temperature by 2 degrees, turn on the radio and select a specific station, reset the trip computer, dim the instrument panel lighting to the lowest level and turn off the center display.


The faster the above tasks were completed the better and in the model that had only physical buttons, an old Volvo V70 from 2005 the driver needed 10 seconds, traveling 306 meters to do the above actions. In contrast, the MG Marvel R required 44.9 seconds and 1,372 meters.

The Dacia Sandero and Volvo C40 fared relatively well, since in addition to touchscreens, they have quite a few physical buttons that control many of the functions. As for the VW ID.3 and Seat Leon, in the sacrifice of saving money and reducing production costs, the touch buttons that control the air conditioning and are located below the screen, do not have a backlight, which makes them completely invisible at night .

3Detailed results

Car Task execution time Distance travelled Rating (From 1 to 5)
BMW iX 30.4 sec. 928 meters 4,0
Dacia Sandero 13.5 sec. 414 meters 3,75
Hyundai Ioniq 5 26.7 sec. 815 meters 3,5
Mercedes GLB 20.2 sec. 616 meters 3,25
MG Marvel R 44.9 sec. 1,372 meters 2,5
Nissan Qashqai 25.1 sec. 765 meters 4,25
Seat Leon 29.3 sec. 895 meters 3,25
Subaru Outback 19.4 sec. 592 meters 4,0
Tesla Model 3 23.5 sec. 717 meters 3,75
Volkswagen ID.3 25.7 sec. 786 meters 2,25
Volvo C40 13.7 sec. 417 meters 3,5
Volvo V70 (2005) 10.0 sec 306 meters 4,5

Source: by

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