Car Touchscreens Increase Accident Risks, Warns Euro NCAP

Written by Henrik Rothen

Mar.06 - 2024 1:35 PM CET

Car Touchscreens Increase Accident Risks, Warns Euro NCAP.

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The incorporation of touchscreens in vehicles, favored by many car manufacturers for controlling essential functions, has been flagged as a potential hazard.

Euro NCAP, the organization responsible for conducting crash and safety tests on vehicles in Europe, warns that relegating crucial controls to touchscreens can significantly raise the risk of accidents due to driver distraction.

Physical Buttons Deemed Safer by Euro NCAP

Despite the undeniable advancements in vehicle safety features, such as increased airbags, assistance systems, and protective measures, Euro NCAP expresses concern over a trend particularly observed among electric vehicle manufacturers. Initiated by Tesla, this design philosophy embraces a minimalist approach by replacing traditional physical buttons with large touchscreen interfaces.

This trend, aimed more at cost-saving than enhancing user-friendliness, compromises safety, according to Euro NCAP. The overreliance on software and large touchscreens for vehicle control functions distracts drivers from the road, increasing the likelihood of accidents caused by distraction.

Matthew Avery, Euro NCAP’s Director of Strategic Development, highlighted the industry-wide issue,

"The excessive use of touchscreens is a problem across the board, with nearly all car manufacturers migrating crucial control elements to central touchscreens, forcing drivers to take their eyes off the road and heightening the risk of distraction accidents.”

Physical Buttons for Top Safety Ratings

In response, Euro NCAP plans to introduce stringent measures by 2026 against manufacturers who eliminate physical buttons in favor of software-based controls.

Euro NCAP does not demand that every function must have a dedicated button or switch but insists on physical controls for essential features such as indicators, hazard lights, windscreen wipers, car horns, and critical SOS functions like the EU's eCall system.

Vehicles lacking dedicated buttons for these functions will not be eligible for the highest scores in Euro NCAP’s safety and crash tests.

Impact on Tesla

Tesla, known for achieving top safety scores with models such as the Model S, Model X, Model Y, and Model 3, could face challenges under these new guidelines. Tesla’s vehicles, currently among the highest-rated in safety by Euro NCAP, incorporate many functions within touchscreen interfaces.

Particularly, with the new Model 3 (Highland) version featuring blinkers and car horn controls as touch buttons on the steering wheel, there is skepticism regarding whether such designs will meet Euro NCAP’s safety criteria post-2026.

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