Finally: new safety rules recognise that buttons beat touchscreens

Finally: new safety rules recognise that buttons beat touchscreens



Should the Model 3's steering wheel indicators disqualify it from being sold in the UK?

Controls that have migrated away from physical buttons and onto touchscreens has left Matt Prior in despair

To my relief, it looks like the answer to the question “is it just me?” is no.

Too many cars in recent times have had me despairing at the number of controls that have migrated away from physical buttons and onto touchscreens.

In some cases this is slightly annoying; in others I believe it’s borderline dangerous. Now the influential car safety rating organisation Euro NCAP has decided that, from 2026, it will award five-star ratings only to cars that retain physical controls for key features.

To qualify, a car must have buttons, stalks or dials for its indicators, windscreen wipers, hazard warning lights, horn and SOS function. This list of items is welcome but not as exhaustive as I would like.

You would have to be some kind of psychopath to not want those controls immediately available where they always are, wouldn’t you?

Given that only a few car makers have moved any wiper activity from physical controls and, to my knowledge, only Tesla has made the baffling and idiotic decision to put indicators on smooth, unfeelable and moving buttons (on a steering-wheel spoke in the latest Tesla Model 3), this decision ought to prevent more mission creep but largely sets the limits at where we are now.

I would prefer Euro NCAP to ask that things that are becoming common be undone.

The Volvo EX30, for example, which last year drove me to distraction by having no physical controls for its door mirrors, wiper sensitivity, climate control (excluding a roof-mounted and not feelably delineated demister button), lights (including the foglight) or driver assistance systems, nor a quickly turnable/pushable volume control, could still qualify for five Euro NCAP stars. I wanted to burn it.

The Model 3, which has no stalks at all, is worse. I don’t think Tesla’s latest indicator buttons, presumably developed somewhere roundabouts don’t exist, should disqualify it from a five-star NCAP rating. In fact, I think they should disqualify it from being sold here at all.

Last week, Edmund King, president of the AA, said something I think a lot of us feel: “I’ve tried not to be a Luddite.”

I think we all have. Nobody wants to be the grumpy old git in the corner, moaning about how great things used to be, to be called ‘old man yells at cloud’ or ‘boomer’.

Cars are generally better than they used to be, but getting rid of stalks and dials and buttons isn’t better, it’s just cheaper. It's time everybody admitted it – and stopped it. 

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