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Europe Tells Automakers That Buttons and Knobs Are Safer Than Touchscreens

Lost the Touch

European regulators have told automakers to ditch the touchscreens in favor of knobs and buttons if they want to get a better safety rating.

As the Times reports, the European New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) is warning that as of January 2026, automakers will have to include physical controls to achieve a full five-star safety rating.

The independent safety body is sending a strong signal, highlighting just how complex center control touchscreens have become and how they may distract drivers, forcing them to look away for extended periods of time.

Research has already found that tactile buttons are safer — and much faster to use — while driving.

"The overuse of touchscreens is an industry-wide problem, with almost every vehicle-maker moving key controls onto central touchscreens," Euro NCAP director of strategic development Matthew Avery told the Times, "obliging drivers to take their eyes off the road and raising the risk of distraction crashes."

Dial It Back

To achieve a full five-star safety rating, the Euro NCAP will soon require carmakers to have physical buttons, stalks, or dials for indicators, hazard warning lights, wipers, SOS calls, and the horn.

The news comes as automakers are trying to outdo each other with the size of touchscreens adorning their vehicles. For instance, in 2021, Mercedes showed off a "Hyperscreen" dashboard, which stretched an astonishing 56 inches across.

Tesla in particular has opted to remove almost all physical controls and bury basic functionality in menus on a large central touchscreen, including indicators and even drive modes — which has led to plenty of frustration.

In the end, the Euro NCAP doesn't have the power to determine what carmakers can or can't do — they're simply pointing out that to get full marks, they'll have to include at least some physical controls.

And the rules are still subject to change in the coming years.

"As this work is in progress, we have not yet finalized the evaluation procedure," Avery told The Verge.

However, it's a sign of the times, with some carmakers like Porsche, slowly reintroducing buttons and dials.

"Car [controls] need to be intuitive for all drivers so they can concentrate on the road ahead rather than the screen to the side," president of the UK's Automotive Association Edmund King told the Times. "Euro NCAP has been transformative in crash protection and saved countless lives, so it is reassuring that it is addressing how design may lead to driver distraction."

More on touchscreens: Death to Car Touchscreens, Buttons are Back, Baby!