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Why it matters: Touchscreen displays are slowly but surely replacing physical buttons as the standard method for interfacing with automobiles, but are they easier or safer than their button-based counterparts?
Swedish car magazine Vi Bilägare recently put a dozen vehicles to the test. Of them, 11 featured touchscreens and only one – a 17-year-old Volvo V70 – relied on physical buttons from yesteryear.
The publication measured how long it took a driver to perform a series of basic tasks while traveling at 68 mph on a closed course. Notably, the drivers were given time to get to know each car and their respective infotainment systems before testing started.
Testing consisted of completing four tasks including activating the heated seat, increasing the temperature by two degrees, and starting the defroster as well as turning on the stereo and adjusting the station to a specific channel, resetting the trip computer and lowering the instrument lights to the lowest level then turning off the center display.
The 2005 button-based Volvo V70 performed the best in testing, with it taking the driver just 10 seconds to conduct all of the tests. Traveling at 68 mph, the vehicle covered only 1,004 feet while the driver was making the adjustments.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the MG Marvel R, a compact Chinese SUV. The driver needed 44.6 seconds to complete all of the tasks using its touchscreen and traveled 4,501 feet in the process. The best-performing touchscreen-based vehicle was the Dacia Sandero as its driver needed just 13.5 seconds to run the gamut. Volvo's C40 was a hair behind, finishing with a time of 13.7 seconds.
According to the publication, automakers are increasingly moving to touchscreens as they afford a cleaner interior with minimal components. The bean counters also favor touchscreens because they are less expensive to implement and can be updated over time with additional functionality.
Do you prefer the sleek aesthetic that modern vehicles with touchscreens afford, or are you a purist with a penchant for tried and true buttons?