Japanese automaker Mazda feels that touchscreen infotainment consoles are too dangerous, and the automaker plans to do away with them in its future cars including the latest Mazda 3 sedan. The automaker will instead use a smaller, non-touch screen controlled by tactile buttons and knobs that allow the driver to control various infotainment and car functions without having to take her/his eyes off the road.
That’s not all. In the latest Mazda 3, the automaker has introduced a heads-up-display for the driver that projects information on the windscreen of the car, and this is said to be a lot less distracting for the driver than a touchscreen system, which generally requires the driver to take her/his eyes completely off the road to operate it.
Mazda has a sound reason behind why it’s doing away with touchscreens. It’s research while developing new cars pointed to the fact that drivers inadvertently would turn the steering wheel while trying to access the touchscreen infotainment panel. And this is unsafe.
Matthew Valbuena, Mazda North America’s lead engineer for HMI and infotainment told MotorAuthority this,
Doing our research, when a driver would reach towards a touch-screen interface in any vehicle, they would unintentionally apply torque to the steering wheel, and the vehicle would drift out of its lane position. And of course with a touchscreen you have to be looking at the screen while you’re touching…so for that reason we were comfortable removing the touch-screen functionality.
But, why do most automakers offer touchscreens on their cars?
1. Touchscreens look very cool, and car buyers love it. With smartphones becoming ubiquitous, touchscreens are now becoming a logical extension of them. Think Apple Carplay, Android Auto and more.
2. They can be packed with a slew of features, both infotainment and car controls.
3. They offer attractive cost savings to automakers, who no longer have to used buttons, knobs and additional wiring that a non-touch screen infotainment unit requires.
4. They allow cleaner, clutter free dashboard design.
While most car makers offering touchscreen units warn drivers that the system be operated only when the car is pulled over, it’s just too impractical to heed this warning. Think of it. Would you pull over everytime you want to access something on the touchscreen? In this context, what Mazda has done now could be what most other car makers would emulate in future.
Mazda is best known for its fun to drive cars, especially the Miata. Mazda is among the few mass market car makers still focusing on the fun-to-drive factor on almost every car it launches, and the level of tactile feel that Mazda cars offer is generally far superior to what its rivals do. By bringing in heads up displays to its cars and replacing the touchscreen, Mazda is the first automaker to put tactile back in priority even when it comes to the infotainment unit. True to its reputation, Mazda is putting the driver and driving first. We like it, and bet that most people who love to drive would do so too.