Carmakers Must Bring Back Buttons, Says Europe

Unsplash | David Von Diemar

Key dashboard touchscreen functions will soon be kicked into touch and physical switches will be required instead for car manufacturers to be granted the highest safety ratings.

Euro NCAP, the automotive safety industry body for Europe, is introducing new guidance for 2026 which means that five important tasks in every car will have to be performed by actual buttons instead of by accessing a screen.

Indicators, hazard warning lights, windscreen wipers, horn, and SOS features will have to be controlled by proper switches in order for cars to be granted Euro NCAP’s coveted five star safety rating.

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

“New Euro NCAP tests due in 2026 will encourage manufacturers to use separate, physical controls for basic functions in an intuitive manner, limiting eyes-off-road time and therefore promoting safer driving.”

Several manufacturers have already come under fire for excessively complex touch screen controls forcing drivers to access menu after menu to adjust seats, mirrors and ventilation—we’re especially looking at you Tesla and VW.

Although it won’t be mandatory to comply with Euro NCAP’s new rules car makers that don’t will lose valuable points in their safety ratings. It sounds like a sensible idea—a positive move in the battle against distracted driving—and one, that, hopefully, the NHTSA will follow.


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    GM never gave up on buttons. They have always had both and it works well.

    The best heat controls are on my sons Blazer. The dash vent is round and you can turn it to control the hear or cool on either side with each.

    Totally agree – You shouldn’t have to look down at the Dumbotron to turn on/off/up/down the HVAC or radio. These should be industry standardized and would eliminate many accidents or near misses – present company included.

    The radio should be old style with two spin diales and 5 or 10 buttons for stations, same for the heater AC .

    I agree with Ken_L and DUB6. There isn’t a new car on the market in the US that I want to buy.

    Buy a Tesla. It drives itself so you can give your undivided attention to the screen – not the road.

    This shows how irrelevant NCAP have become, the horse has already bolted and only now have they woken up and said something but don’t forget these are same people that made sure we cannot disable the infinitely annoying active lane assist.

    NCAP Leading from behind, they should be shut down as they doing more harm than good.

    Touch screens in cars are an engineering convenience that are a nightmare for the driver. A hybrid approach always seemed the best way forward to me.

    What gets me is the message I get to not take my eyes off the road but yet the message comes up while I am driving.

    I wish they would make heads up display a mandatory thing. I have had 5 cars with it and once you get used to it you don’t want to be without.

    I wonder if this is what the issue is, I need to look into it because my expensive sunglasses hinder my ability to see my HUD but my cheapy ones I have no issues with

    Can’t disagree…. I know where every button is on my BMW… tactile buttons. I can feel the menu, radio, all buttons. I didn’t even realize… after 4 years ownership…. that the screen was touch. Why reach over to touch a screen when lowering my hand to the knob, or the steering wheel buttons do the same thing?

    This is why fighter planes have buttons, switches, and knobs. The only screens are information screens; radar, attitude displays, engine information, etc. Pilots know where every tactile control is, in the dark.

    This is a great idea and I have been saying this for years. My favorite cars to drive are the older models with no screens. Although I have owned 4 BMWs I will not look at a new one because of the complexity and also they are ugly. Now to answer the question where did this come from in part automotive journalist who for years have praised the modern touch screen and complained out buttons like found in the older Porche Cayenne.

    Ken Purdy said the Mercer Raceabout was the safest car he ever drove, even with an external brake handle acting on the rears only and a plate glass monocle inches from your face. Absolutely nothing distracted the driver from concentrating on his task. Forward into the past.

    “hopefully, the NHTSA will follow”

    Yeah, right, just like they did with headlights – 20 years behind Europe

    I certainly hope you’re not talking about pop-up headlights, because it was one of the most ignorant decisions to get rid of them and force automakers to abandon absolutely gorgeous cars in favor of protecting a tiny number of people who aren’t smart enough not to jaywalk? That was such an awful decision.

    My biggest complaint on my daily’s is when a phone call pops onto the screen the accept and reject icons are right next to each other forcing you to look at your hand while touching, and it is still easy to hit the wrong one… the screen is huge, separate the two, waddaya designers thinkin?
    Honda and Toyota same issue issue

    The newest car in my fleet currently is a 2004 Corvette convertible. It has no screens, real door handles with mechanical linkage. No video game dash, no Apple car play, no internet. Now that it’s hit 20 years I have replaced all the rubber hoses, including brake hoses, fluids everywhere. It has 41,000 miles. There is no car on the market today I am even interested in, so my C5 has to go at least another 20 years. Maybe then there will be cars available? Not the current rolling video games of death.

    No surprise.
    You can set the heat, fan speed, radio station and volume, wash the windshield, and turn on the 4 way flashers in under 10 seconds in an analog car or 90 seconds with a touch screen.

    I’d argue can we bring back 90’s-00’s level ergonomics back? Today’s cars beyond the touchscreen everything are a collection or reinventing the wheel for things that just work, like door handles going electric so they can freeze or not function when the battery is dead or redesigned for no good reason shifters which require you to jiggle them in a way that reminds me of a cheat code on an old video game just do simple things like put it in reverse, drive, park, etc. Nice to see a government body is here to save us (well the Euro-crowd) at least. /s

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