(In) Useful Car Technologies: Convenience or Danger to Traffic?

However, road safety experts are critical of such manufacturers’ decisions, arguing that as cars become more intelligent, defining their functions while driving often poses the same risks to road safety as using a telephone.

Experts point out that physical buttons remain superior in terms of intuition, so manufacturers such as Mazda or Audi, who persistently preserve them, ensure that the driver’s attention is less distracted.

The device is different, but the effect is the same

Valdas Vilūnas, a journalist and traffic safety expert, points out that car manufacturers have used touch screens not only to control settings or multimedia functions, but also to receive dashboard information. The specialist agrees that such a solution is really convenient, but only in cases where there is no need to drive. Focusing on traffic and setting functions at the touch with just one touch can become tricky when needed.

“Drivers are advised not to use smartphones, but when they have to look away from the car screen, they lose vigilance in the same way. A driver looking for settings can drive even a few hundred meters in speed without noticing what is going on around him, therefore there is a real danger both for himself and other road users, ”explains V. Vilūnas.

The specialist says that in order to avoid risks, it is very important to review the car’s settings before driving, find out how quickly one or another function can be found and, if possible, set all the necessary parameters so that they do not need to be changed during the trip.

Smart solutions are becoming more attractive

The car journalist notes that such decisions of manufacturers are mainly determined by the changed priorities of vehicle owners. He argues that increasingly, when choosing a car, drivers themselves pay more attention to the possibilities of connectivity with smartphones than to control the necessary functions.

“Now, for many drivers, car specifications and driving characteristics are becoming secondary. An important factor is to link the phone and the car’s multimedia. Of course, this is also pointed out by the manufacturers, who have started using the buttons only as functional design elements to meet the needs of drivers, ”the road safety expert shares his insights.

He notes that changing drivers’ habits do have a significant negative impact on road safety. Distracted people behind the wheel not only forget to show turn signals, but start driving from memory and are no longer able to react properly to emergencies or avoid accidents.

Buttons are not a thing of the past

Of course, car manufacturers are often happy to offer ever-larger touch screens, but car journalists note that not everyone leaves old solutions in the past. For example, a few years ago, the Japanese carmaker Mazda was awarded in the Lithuanian Car of the Year 2018 elections not only for the control features of the CX-5, which won the most important title, but also for adapting smart solutions in terms of driving comfort and safety.

Although this Japanese carmaker offers a smaller multimedia screen than, for example, Volkswagen or Audi, such a solution does not completely hinder the success of Mazda models, as its handling features have received much praise both before and now. Providing intuitive control, the Japanese provided on many models the ability to set functions both on the touch screen and with the rotary control and buttons mounted under the driver’s hand.

In the market, more and more manufacturers are trying to offer drivers safer choices: from voice control to multimedia control gestures. However, experts point out that this is a very small part of the settings without distracting from driving, so the physical buttons remain superior in terms of intuition.

Intuition equals security

Reducing driver distraction is also important for controlling functions with buttons directly on the steering wheel. While cruise control and multimedia control without taking your hands off the wheel are not new, manufacturers are adding controls to other features as well.

Here, for example, the aforementioned manufacturers have provided an automatic distance control button on the steering wheel, but unlike, for example, Volkswagen, Mazda has also provided drivers with call control buttons. This means that every time the driver calls, you don’t have to take your hands off and launch the screen to answer, just press a button on the steering wheel.

V. Vilūnas also draws attention to the importance of intuitive management. The traffic safety expert assures that by being able to control the functions in such a way that the main work (driving) is disrupted as little as possible, drivers will not only feel less stress, but will also be able to avoid extreme situations caused by late braking or other solutions.

“It’s easier with buttons because it’s a fixed detail. An experienced driver can automatically use the buttons and knobs without distracting from the road. It is almost impossible to do it on the touch screen, ”notes V. Vilūnas.

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