European Regulators Have Told Car Makers To Bring Back Physical Controls

The car industry has been doing good in making cars safer and more efficient, but some things they’re doing aren’t so great. Like using too much glossy “piano black” trim and relying too much on touchscreens for important stuff. Euro NCAP, which checks car safety, agrees and wants to change things by 2026, especially about touchscreens.

Euro NCAP’s boss, Matthew Avery, says touchscreens are a big problem. They make drivers look away from the road, which can cause accidents. Euro NCAP thinks it’s better to have separate buttons or switches for important things so drivers don’t have to look away from the road too much. That way, driving can be safer for everyone.

“The overuse of touchscreens is an industry-wide problem, with almost every vehicle-maker moving key controls onto central touchscreens, obliging drivers to take their eyes off the road and raising the risk of distraction crashes,” said Matthew Avery, Euro NCAP’s director of strategic development.

“New Euro NCAP tests due in 2026 will encourage manufacturers to use separate, physical controls for basic functions in an intuitive manner, limiting eyes-off-road time and therefore promoting safer driving,” he said.

While Euro NCAP isn’t advocating for every function to have its own button or switch, it insists on physical controls for critical features like turn signals, hazard lights, windshield wipers, horn, and emergency features such as the European Union’s eCall system.

Tesla faces particular scrutiny due to its recent decision to replace physical stalks with haptic buttons on the steering wheel for turn signal functions. Although Ferrari also integrates turn signals into the steering wheel, the company’s absence from Euro NCAP’s database suggests limited impact.

Despite lacking regulatory authority, Euro NCAP’s influence lies in its role as a key safety evaluator, with a five-star safety rating being a significant selling point for manufacturers. This pressure is likely to encourage compliance with the proposed changes. Suggestions have been made to urge similar action from organizations like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in the United States, whose Top Safety Pick program holds considerable sway in the industry.

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