Friday, January 31, 2020 By Jasmin Sharp

In 1986, Buick introduced the first vehicle with a touchscreen – the 1986 Riviera. The screen in this vehicle allowed drivers to control the radio and climate control. Since this technology was introduced almost 34 years ago, touchscreen technology in vehicles has evolved rapidly. Infotainment systems and screens mounted in or on dashboards have gotten bigger, more complex, and boast more features to keep up with rapidly developing technology. Cars have evolved from a method of transportation to a technological asset designed to keep us connected at all times.

In 2020, touchscreens are not only becoming more common but also more feature-laden. Tesla started leading the trend in growing touchscreen infotainment systems, with the Model 3 having a 15” touchscreen display. When Tesla first brought their vehicles to the consumer market, many other car manufacturers started copying their display sizes and the industry saw a rapid increase in touchscreen size. In 2020, automakers from Ford and Fiat Chrysler to Lexus and Subaru have all introduced vehicles with touchscreens that are nearly 12”. At the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, several new vehicles with bigger, brighter, and more connected touchscreen infotainment systems were debuted. The most noticeable touchscreen display presented at CES 2020 came from the Chinese car manufacturer Byton, who introduced their M-Byte SUV, an all-electric vehicle with a whopping 48” touchscreen display that stretches across the entire width of the vehicle’s dashboard. 

But is this evolution of technology helping or hurting drivers and companies when it comes to road safety?

Despite technology seemingly wanting to make vehicles safer, the overwhelming data shows that touchscreen infotainment systems are not helpful in improving road safety. A 2018 report by AAA found that drivers attempting to use touchscreen infotainment systems were distracted enough to be deemed unsafe operators of their vehicles. The report found that infotainment systems native to a vehicle were more distracting to drivers than using systems like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

One of the main issues with infotainment systems on touchscreens is the potential for distraction. In the same way that a smartphone is distracting because it takes a driver’s eyes off the road, a touchscreen infotainment display on a vehicles’ dashboard requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention to operate. This makes these screens just as dangerous as smartphones while driving. Unlike an infotainment system that relies on knobs, buttons, or a joystick, touchscreen displays are less conducive for muscle memory eyes-off operation

Screens don’t seem to be going anywhere as far as vehicle design. However, some manufacturers are working to implement safety checks such as preventing screens from being touched while a vehicle is in motion. Hopefully, we’ll see more safety features in the future to help decrease distractions in vehicles and decrease crashes.

Cell phones are even more distracting than in-vehicle touchscreens. Want to prevent your fleet drivers from using them while on the road? NOCELL is the commercial-grade solution to distracted driving. Contact us for a demo: