A test asked drivers to use some features while driving on a closed track
A number of new vehicles have been tested against a 2005 Volvo that does not have a touchscreen
The distance traveled while the driver performed the tasks varies by more than 1 km
A recent test conducted by ViBilägare in Sweden, it turned out that touchscreens are in fact not as safe and convenient as physical buttons in cars.
Many drivers have complained that new cars leave buttons to hide any controls in the infotainment system and this test shows they may have good reason to complain.
It is indeed dangerous to have the driver take his eyes off the road to look at the controls and this time should be limited by making the functions easy to find and use.
To determine which car infotainment system is the most user-friendly and therefore safest, the website pitted 11 new vehicles against each other in a series of tasks.
Interestingly, they decided to add a 17-year-old vehicle to the equation in the form of a 2005 Volvo V70, a car that doesn’t have a touchscreen and whose functions are all controlled by buttons.
Each driver had to perform the same tasks, divided into four categories related to the climate control, the audio system, the on-board computer and the displays.
The specific tasks asked the driver to turn on the heated seats, raise the temperature by two degrees and select the defroster.
They were then asked to turn on the radio and tune in to a specific station before resetting the trip computer, dimming the dash to the lowest level, and turning off the center screen.
It’s important to mention that all drivers had the time to learn each vehicle’s infotainment systems ahead of time, so the outcome could be much worse for drivers jumping into a new vehicle for the first time.
Unsurprisingly, the 2005 Volvo was the clear winner of this test by allowing the driver to look at the controls for just 10 seconds to complete all tasks. simulate highway conditions.
Performing the same actions took 44.9 seconds in the MG Marvel R, a model developed in China that is not sold in North America. At that time, the car drove more than 1 kilometer further than the old car, with a total distance of 1,372 meters over which the driver was distracted.
However, the second worst car in the test is sold here because it is the new BMW iX. The electric SUV took 30.4 seconds and 928 meters to complete all tasks. The website blamed the complexity of the infotainment system for this poor performance.
The Hyundai Ioniq 5 also didn’t do much better, at 26.7 seconds and a distance of 815 meters, any more than the Nissan Qashqai (Rogue Sport in the US), which took 25.1 seconds and 765 meters.
Slightly better was the Tesla Model 3, despite almost all controls being integrated into the center screen. This shows that Tesla’s interface is more intuitive than others, but a time of 23.5 seconds and a distance of 737 meters are still quite far from the old car.
The Mercedes-Benz GLB and Subaru Outback both performed quite well, with a result of 20.2 seconds and 616 meters for the Mercedes and 19.4 seconds and 592 meters for the Subaru.
Interestingly, the best performing new vehicle in this test offered in North America (and the second overall) is also made by Volvo. Indeed, the C40 Recharge, equipped with the carmaker’s latest Google infotainment system, took just 13.7 seconds and 417 meters to complete the tasks.
This proves that touchscreens can be made almost as easy to use as physical buttons, but most automakers don’t seem to prioritize ease of use over the number of functions or the screen’s aesthetics.