After years of equipping their electric cars with increasingly larger touch screens, EV makers are turning back to physical buttons amid a phenomenon dubbed “screen fatigue.” While touchscreens were instrumental in changing how we interact with various technologies, it seems the technology doesn’t quite meld with electric vehicles.
Carmakers have spent the past couple of years replacing most physical buttons in cars with touch screens to give their units a minimalistic and futuristic design. While the technology did result in a cleaner and minimalist aesthetic for many EV models, it forced drivers to wade through layers of screens to access functions such as radio or seat heating.
According to AutoPacific veteran automotive analyst Ed Kim, automakers also adopted touch screens because they are cheaper than physical buttons amid the already high EV production costs. However, this trend seems to be getting old with consumers, who would rather use knobs and buttons to access their vehicle features instead of often inconvenient and attention-grabbing touch screens.
Vehicle touch screens were relatively rare as recently as a decade ago, and the ones that existed were tiny compared to modern ones. Evidence shows that automakers may have jumped the gun on the touch screen trend. A recent study by J.D. Power found that motorists are unhappy with built-in infotainment systems.
The study noted that such systems were a prime example of automakers following technological trends that ultimately didn’t align with their customers. Less than one-half of surveyed vehicle owners said they would prefer to use their car’s built-in infotainment system for regular functions such as navigation, voice recognition and phone calls while only 56% preferred to use the system to play audio, compared to 70% in 2020.
A social media campaign dubbed #savethebuttons has been gaining traction recently, a testament to the number of drivers who long for the days of easily accessible buttons and knobs in their cars. Perhaps in response to increasing reports of screen fatigue, several carmakers are developing electric cars with knobs and buttons to create the driving experience many electric car drivers have been craving.
For instance, the Electrified GV70 SUV by Korean brand Genesis features an interior that is similar to its gas-powered facsimile. Andre Ravinowich is the senior manager of product planning at Genesis. He says the company decked its third-ever electric car with buttons and knobs that assisted rather than distracted the driver. Ravinowich added that electric cars are still luxury vehicles and noted that digging through two layers of screens just to heat the cabin isn’t a good experience.
Manufacturers in the EV space, such as Kandi Technologies Group Inc. (NASDAQ: KNDI), are implementing their own strategies to lure customers and cement their place in the hearts and minds of motorists. This competition will ultimately be to the benefit of car buyers.
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