Automotive production

Physical Buttons In Cars Are Safer Than Touchscreens: Study

A recent study by Swedish automotive magazine Vi Bilägare has shown that physical buttons are less time-consuming in vehicles than touchscreens.

In other words, when drivers of the past pushed a button in the cabin of their cars, it took them less time than nowadays, when modern drivers have to operate touchscreen infotainment systems.

You need more time to perform specific tasks in new vehicles with menu screens than people decades ago who used tactile buttons, according to researchers.

Vi Bilägare tested 11 new cars of different brands and a 2005 Volvo V70. The testers found out it took 10 seconds in the old vehicle and up to 45 seconds in the new models to fulfill a series of four common tasks in motion at a speed of 68 mph. The tasks were the following:

  • Turn on the heated seat, increase the temperature by two degrees, and start the defroster.
  • Turn on the radio and tune it to a specific station (Sweden’s Program 1).
  • Reset the trip computer.
  • Turn the instrument lights to their lowest setting and turn off the center display.

While drivers were fiddling with buttons, the old car covered a significantly shorter distance (only 308 m) than the new vehicles which took part in the test (up to 1,732 m).


Physical buttons in cars are safer than touchscreens as less distractive and simpler to use.

Trying to simplify operations for the driver and passengers, automakers have eliminated and minimized the number of physical buttons in vehicles, replacing them with virtual icons on touchscreen displays.

Those touchscreens with multiple pages of their menus in practice distract drivers more from the road than simple palpable buttons in older vehicles. 

Moreover, some infotainment systems, like the one in the BMW iX, for instance, are too complex, and uneasy to use – so, car owners need more time to complete tasks.

Photo: Interior of the BMW iX

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