Back in May 2020 I posted an opinion on DRIVING&LIFE that touchscreens are a dangerous development, and now there’s vindication from UK connectivity specialist VNC AUTOMOTIVE, which suggests that driver distraction and inattention are far bigger contributors in nearly half of all fatal and serious injury road accidents than many in the car industry realise.
VNC says many new cars are so laden with technology that driver distraction is growing at an alarming rate.
The company said that the dominance of touchscreens in interior design is one of the major contributors to the rise in accidents caused by inattention.
Try telling that to the hip young designers, who appear to have convinced car companies that doing away with switches, buttons and sliders is a ‘good thing’.
Some serious research by the NHTSA in the USA reveals that drivers are very comfortable reaching for a switch/button/slider to make adjustments, without taking their eyes off the road.
They are used to the scope of movement, and their ‘feel’ for just how much adjustment they need is a cognitive function which represents the perfect harmony of your brain linked to your fingers. The researchers concluded this is much easier for humans to cope with.
As opposed to being forced to look away from the road view, to work out just where on the touchscreen they need to place a finger, and then further distraction occurs when the driver needs to check the level of function change required.
This is not being alarmist. ‘Anything’ which distracts the driver from the road ahead is potentially deadly. Asking a driver to multi-task by operating a touchscreen whilst driving is going to come back and bite the carmakers.
I believe that once this view about potential danger caused by touchscreens gains currency, the industry could well be asked to reverse direction on the elimination of manual switches/buttons/sliders.