What do you look for while buying a new car? Is it the design, classy interiors, or the much-sought-after touchscreen infotainment systems that have now become a rage? Well, think twice before you choose. If Japanese automaker Mazda is to be believed, touchscreen infotainment consoles in cars are a safety hazard and the company plans to stop their use in its upcoming vehicles including the new Mazda 3 sedan. The automaker plans to replace this high-tech equipment with smaller, non-touch screens controlled by buttons and knobs that allow the driver to control car functions without having to take eyes off the road.
Talking about passenger safety, Mazda has gone a step further with its new sedan. The automaker has introduced a heads-up-display for driver that projects information on the windscreen of the car. Again, the company claims that it is a lot less distracting for drivers than a touchscreen system, which generally requires the driver to take eyes completely off the road to operate.
Not sure about the company's claims? Neither are we. However, Mazda has found in an internal survey that drivers inadvertently turn the steering wheel while accessing touchscreen infotainment panel on the car. And this is unsafe.
Matthew Valbuena, Mazda North America's lead engineer for HMI and infotainment, told MotorAuthority,
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.
If this is indeed true, why don't other automakers follow in the footsteps of Mazda? Well, there are a few compelling reasons
1. Touchscreens are special attraction in modern-day cars and enthusiasts love them. The flood of smartphones in the market have only fueled this love for touchscreens further. Add to this, personalized applications such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
2. Touchscreen infotainment systems help driver and passengers stay connected in the move.
3. For car manufacturers, these consoles mean higher savings as they no longer have to use buttons, knobs, and additional wiring a non-touch screen infotainment unit requires.
Though most carmakers offering touchscreen units urge drivers to operate these consoles only when the car is pulled over, we all know how many of us heed such warnings. Think of it. Would you pull over every time you want to access something on the touchscreen?
Coming to Mazda, the company is among the few mass market carmakers still focusing on the fun-to-drive factor in its cars. The level of tactile feel that cars owners get with Mazda is far superior to its rivals. By introducing heads-up displays and replacing touchscreen, Mazda had become the first automaker to put tactile back in priority even with infotainment unit. True to its reputation, Mazda is putting the driver and driving first.