XXL touch screens that concentrate too many functions can dangerously distract the driver.
In the list of what characterizes a Tesla, there is the touch screen. Of course, the American firm was not the first to offer this type of technology in a car. But from its first mass-produced vehicle, the Model S, it hit hard in this area. In 2012, its large sedan featured a 17-inch screen. At that time, the average screen for GPS was rather 7 inches!
A piece of equipment that we therefore found in the Model 3. If for her, the screen is “only” 15 inches, it remains much larger than what is offered by the competition. 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 physical buttons for the various features of the car. Even Porsche put an end to its sacrosanct “one function = one button” with the touchscreen era!
Nothing beats the classic button
The concern is that this fashion poses security issues. You’ve probably already noticed if your car is all about touch. Perhaps you have already had a scare by getting lost in an air conditioning control.
The Swedish magazine Vi Bilägare looked into the subject by carrying out a test with eleven vehicles equipped with a touch screen. The driver had to perform a set of tasks, for example turning on the radio and finding a defined station, activating the heated seat, increasing the temperature of the air conditioning 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 is not the worst of the lot, however. It took 25.7 seconds in the Volkswagen ID.3 and even 29.3 seconds with the Seat Leon. On the other hand, proof that you can do well with touch if it is well thought out and assisted by the necessary physical buttons, the operations took 13.7 seconds in the new Volvo C40 Recharge.
Red card for the MG Marvel R
Still, 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 giving the futuristic image that we expect in this type of car. In the very techno BMW iX, the test time was 30 seconds.
If we see a logic one-upmanship among luxury firms, for example the Mercedes Hyperscreen, the phenomenon also affects more 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 took 44.9 seconds! In addition, the layout of the screen requires the driver to tilt his head strongly to see a function that would be at the bottom. Such ergonomics represents a real danger for the driver, this time spent searching being time not looking at the road.
Brands shouldn’t back down when it comes to touch, which has both design and cost benefits. But they must think carefully about the use of the menus. To improve road safety, it is also necessary to keep in physical control, quick access, the essential functions.
Train before hitting the road
Because on this point too, Tesla can be a bad example to follow. If the Model 3 is doing quite well in the end compared to other models in the Swedish evaluation, the test focused on common operations where touch becomes almost automatic. But in the little Tesla, the cap is pushed very far, since even the change in the speed of the wipers requires going through the screen. The American was thus pinned in another test conducted by the Swiss organization TCS.
It also assessed the risk of inattention when using functions related to headlights, windshield wipers, air conditioning and GPS. The Model 3 had an overall score of 34%, compared to 72% for another 3, that of Mazda. If the Model 3 had good marks for the navigation part, it had a very bad result for the lights and wipers. Funny fact: even with a physical button, the Model 3 crashed. None of the testers (they didn’t know the model) found the warning function, this being located at the level of the ceiling light, with a control embedded in the mass.
Obviously, everything works out 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 be comfortable and will find the thing obvious.