Study suggests hardware buttons are quicker & safer compared to touchscreens
Hardware works. Hardware is also expensive! Software is simply flexible compared to hardware
Frank Landymore for futurism:
Over the summer, the magazine conducted tests across 12 models of cars — eleven modern, along with one 2005 Volvo with physical controls — and allowed test drivers to get to know the ins and outs of the vehicles. The tests themselves were simple: drivers were instructed to cruise down an empty airstrip at 68 miles per hour and were timed on the completion of four infotainment tasks, ranging from adjusting the AC to messing with the radio.
The Swedish magazine found that the 2005 Volvo far outperformed the modern, infotainment screen equipped cars, with a driver completing all four tasks in just ten seconds and 1,000 feet traveled.
Meanwhile, the best time in the modern cars was nearly 14 seconds. But even these speeds were relative outliers, because for the majority of infotainment equipped vehicles, it took well over 20 seconds and at least 2,000 feet.
I believe this holds true with everyone (even if you are not a designer) and I'm pretty sure it is known within the industrial (or car) designers community.
I remember when I bough my first car; I felt like sitting in a cockpit of an airplane. Over the next few days, I pretty much knew what button was where. It had shape, texture and motion to give me feedback.
Hardware works. Hardware is also expensive!
I drive a Tesla Model Y today, and out of habit, I make sure everything is set up before I start driving. It's a horrible experience to do anything while driving. Heck the Tesla Model S Plaid version doesn't even have a gear stick. It's big sliding toggle on the left edge of the screen.
I think we will see a lot more cars transitioning to software à la touchscreen going forward because software is simply flexible compared to hardware. This is also the case where you see cars taking steps towards self-driving and the hardware controls are just a hindrance at this point in time.
Voice is another input mechanism that will become more common going forward. I use voice to simply open the Glovebox and make phone calls. However, looking at the way my son interacts with Siri and Echo dot at home - the next generation of car users is going to be more comfortable using touchscreens and voice commands to navigate their way around the car infotainment systems.
Hardware buttons and knobs are set to be phased out and you will see much larger screens and a lot less hardare moving forward. We saw this when Apple previewed its next generation CarPlay at WWDC last year. However, we have a few more years, as we figure out the right balance between touchscreens, hardware and voice commands.