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Study Finds That Physical Buttons Are Easier To Use Than Touchscreens

While touchscreens are a very trendy affair right now, it should be no surprise that physical controls are just so much easier to operate. Critics are constantly arguing against the so-called luxurious feature, as they continue to grow in size with more complicated menus. Swedish car magazine Vi Bilägare performed a test that proves most of us right, after comparing eleven modern-day vehicles against a 17 year-old Volvo V70.

Image Credit: Volvo

During the test, the publication recorded the amount of time it took for the driver to turn on the heated seat, raise the temperature by two degrees, start the defroster, turn on the radio and switch the station, reset the trip computer, and dim the instrument panel to its lowest setting. Each of these actions would seem simple in cars devoid of screens, but when a touchscreen is your only option, things can get difficult.

Image Credit: Vi Bilägare

The MG Marvel R fared the worst, as it took the driver a whopping 44.9 seconds to perform all of the aforementioned tasks. In vehicles like the BMW iX, operation was a bit tricky, even though the driver made time to get used to the infotainment system before the test. The iX was the second-worst with 30.4 seconds.

As expected, the V70 did the best, as it took the driver just 10 seconds to perform every task. The modern car that came the closest to the V70's time was the Dacia Sandero with 13.5 seconds, though it still offers plenty of physical controls. Volvo's C40 Recharge also did surprisingly well despite its large screen, with a time of 13.7 seconds. The next best vehicle was the Subaru Outback, but it took the driver a very long 19.4 seconds. Every other contender trailed behind the V70 with times in the 20s.

Image Credit: BMW

Each recorded time is equal to the length of time that the driver takes their eyes off the road, as they focus instead on various menus and controls. Over 40 seconds of distraction, like in the MG Marvel R, is extremely dangerous and can pose a major risk to the occupants of the vehicle, as well as the cars surrounding it. On the other hand, physical buttons and knobs can be operated without having to look away, as these controls are always in the same fixed position. Digital menus, however, include an array of different options in various positions.

Overall, this study states the obvious, but it helps to show us firsthand that a reliance on screens can be distracting and dangerous. These displays undoubtedly show us helpful information at a glance, but designers need to embrace a better mix of physical and digital controls in the future.

Do you think big screens will begin to go out of style in the near future?


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