XXL touch screens that concentrate too many functions can be dangerously distracting for the driver.
In the list of what characterizes a Tesla is the touch screen. Of course, the American company was not the first to offer this type of technology in a car. But since its first mass-produced vehicle, the Model S, it has hit hard in this area. In 2012, its large sedan featured a 17-inch screen. At the time, the average screen for GPS was quite 7 inches!
Equipment that was then found in the Model 3. If for her the screen is “only” 15 inches, it remains significantly larger than what the competition offers. Tesla even dared to remove the instrumentation behind the steering wheel. On this point, Tesla has not yet been very followed.
On the other hand, Tesla has greatly contributed to the democratization of the XXL touch screen. With one consequence: the disappearance of the physical buttons for the various characteristics of the car. Porsche has also put an end to its sacrosanct “one function = one button” with the era of the touchscreen!
Nothing beats the classic button
The concern is that this trend poses security concerns. You’ve probably already noticed if your car is all about touch. Maybe you’ve already been afraid of getting lost in an air conditioning check.
The Swedish magazine Vi Bilägare investigated the topic further by carrying out a test with eleven vehicles equipped with touch screens. The driver had to perform a series of tasks, such as turning on the radio and finding a defined station, activating the heated seat, increasing the air conditioning temperature by two degrees, starting the defrost …
The point of comparison was a 2005 Volvo, which did not have a touch screen. With it, the list of manipulations was completed in 10 seconds flat. With the Tesla Model 3, it was 23.5 seconds, more than double. The American sedan isn’t the worst of the lot though. It took 25.7 seconds with the Volkswagen ID.3 and even 29.3 seconds with the Seat Leon. On the other hand, demonstrating that you can do well with touch if well thought out and assisted by the necessary physical buttons, the operations lasted 13.7 seconds in the new Volvo C40 Recharge.
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Red card for MG Marvel R
However, Tesla can really have a bad influence when brands try to copy it to offer their customers a similar experience, which is becoming very common in electric vehicles, the big screen that gives the futuristic image we expect in this type of car. In the very high-tech BMW iX, the test time was 30 seconds.
If we see a logic of one-upmanship among luxury companies, for example Mercedes Hyperscreen, the phenomenon also affects the most accessible brands. In its new electric “top of the range”, the Marvel R, MG has installed an XXL vertical screen, similar to that of the old Model S. With this model the operations of the Vi Bilägare test lasted 44.9 seconds! In addition, the layout of the screen requires the driver to tilt their head strongly to see a feature that would be at the bottom. Such ergonomics represent a real danger to the driver, this time spent looking for time without looking at the road.
Brands shouldn’t hold back when it comes to touching, which has both design and cost benefits. But they need to think carefully about the use of the menus. To improve road safety it is also necessary to maintain physical control, quick access, essential functions.
Train before you hit the road
Because even on this point Tesla can be a bad example to follow. If in the end the Model 3 is doing quite well compared to other models in the Swedish evaluation, the test has focused on common operations where the touch becomes almost automatic. But in the little Tesla the cap is pushed much further, as changing the speed of the wipers also requires going through the screen. The American was thus blocked in another test conducted by the Swiss organization TCS.
It also assessed the risk of inattention when using functions related to headlights, wipers, air conditioning and GPS. The Model 3 achieved an overall score of 34%, compared to 72% of the other 3, that of Mazda. If the Model 3 got good marks for the navigation part, it had a bad result for the lights and wipers. Fun fact: Even with a physical button, the Model 3 crashed. None of the testers (they did not know the model) found the warning function, this being located at the level of the ceiling light, with a command embedded in the mass.
Of course, everything works when a vehicle has been correctly presented to its future driver. Voice control is also a good way to keep your hands on the wheel. And for the functions that go through the screen, after a period of adaptation, many drivers will feel comfortable and will find the obvious thing.
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