Many automakers are getting rid of good ol’ fashioned buttons and switches these days, in favour of touchscreen infotainment systems. Now, new evidence shows those touchscreens are far less safe and efficient than the old-school alternative.
A Swedish-based publication carried out the test of 11 modern vehicles with touch-sensitive infotainment screens against a Volvo V70 from 2005 to see which was the easiest to operate. And to find that out, it asked the drivers in each vehicle to perform a number of simple tasks.
Drivers were asked to activate the heated seat, increase the temperature in the cabin by two degrees, start the defrosters; turn on the radio and adjust it to specific stations; reset the trip computer, and lower the instrument lighting panel to its lowest level.
The magazine timed the drivers as they performed each task while driving the respective vehicle at 68 miles per hour. Interestingly, the 2005 Volvo V70 with its dedicated buttons took users the least time to run through the four tasks, at just 10 seconds. Touchscreen-based vehicles like the new BMW iX took three times as long: 30.4 seconds, but even that’s not as bad as the MG Marvel R, which required 44.9 seconds. The publication points out that it’s not just the lack of buttons that can be a problem. The way an infotainment system is designed plays a huge role, too. The system in the iX, for example, is one of the most complex and complicated user interfaces ever designed.
There’s no doubt that infotainment systems are powerful, coming equipped with everything from 360-degree cameras to advanced GPS navigation. But when the interfaces aren’t efficient to use, and they control functions like windshield wipers or climate controls, it starts to get a little ridiculous.
Traditional buttons, knobs, and switches have a tactility that allows drivers to intuitively find and adjust them while keeping their eyes on the road. A slippery touchscreen does not. Analogue controls are also permanently positioned, whereas a touchscreen may require additional navigation to reach a feature.