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2024 tesla model 3 interior

Hallelujah! Physical Buttons Could Make a Comeback Due to New Safety Regulations


It’s a cost-cutting automotive trend that has turned into an epidemic and one that could now be thankfully nipped in the bud. Yes, we are talking about the onslaught of touch screens and the gradual disappearance of physical controls in new cars. It’s no secret that integrating functions into a touchscreen saves money, but putting crucial functions at the mercy of touch controls has also infuriated car buyers.

Along with the being quite annoying, they’re also a major safety hazard and now regulations have finally caught up with them. Euro NCAP has stated that from 2026, for a car to get the perfect safety rating it must incorporate some crucial physical controls for some features.

“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,” said Matthew Avery, Euro NCAP Director of Strategic Development.

This includes a minimum requirement of proper buttons for indicators, windscreen wipers, hazard warning lights, horns, and SOS functions. It’s worth noting that these changes will not make physical buttons mandatory for a 5-star safety rating but will encourage their use through a scoring system.

Furthermore, ANCAP CEO Carla Hoorweg told the media, “Physical buttons or stalks to operate these key vehicle controls will be encouraged through scoring, with manufacturers awarded points for the prioritisation of physical controls.”

RELATED: 1,092HP Porsche Taycan Turbo GT is the Most Powerful New Car in Australia.

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Cars like the Porsche Taycan strike a balance between buttons and touchscreen controls | Image: Porsche Australia

While currently the list is limited to safety features, physical controls for basic climate control and multimedia functions should also be added as these days you are forced to go deep inside various touchscreen menus to operate basic functions.

This trend was arguably pioneered by Tesla with a stark and minimalist cabin design while later everyone hopped onto the bandwagon. That said, due to the growing displeasure voiced by buyers and experts alike, carmakers like Volkswagen have vowed to turn the tide and have started re-introducing physical controls in some of its new cars.

It must be said that while the Euro NCAP is voluntary, it is an influential car safety organisation and the addition of these new regulations will also influence new car development which would be seen in markets beyond Europe too.

Our take is that while touchscreens would not go away, some physical controls for the functions on the steering wheel to the climate control system should be there and if regulations need to step in to ensure that, then this is a step in the right direction.

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