Cars > Tech

Physical buttons in cars are here to stay, thanks to Euro NCAP

This should hopefully rein in the rampant implementation of touch controls

It looks cool, but is incredibly impractical. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

In recent years, more and more basic vehicle controls have been replaced by touchscreen interfaces, a trend not everyone is in love with. Now, it seems physical buttons in cars may have been given a brighter future, thanks to an unlikely savior: the European New Car Assessment Program, better known as Euro NCAP.

The people who crash cars for a living to tell consumers how safe these are (or not) are about to introduce new rules from January 2026.

Physical controls always will remain superior. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Part of this new framework is a requirement that vehicles must have physical controls for basic functions, or the car will not be able to get a five-star rating. While Euro NCAP testing is voluntary, the work by the independent safety body is well regarded, and many carmakers use the star-based crash rating to advertise their wares.

In the future, if the likes of BMW, Tesla or Volkswagen want to brag about a maximum five-star rating, then their cars will have to use proper stalks, dials, and buttons for the indicators, the hazard warning lights, the windscreen wipers, the SOS call function, and the horn.

The organization explains the move by saying that having to navigate touchscreen menus while driving a car can be a safety hazard. Drivers often have to take their eyes off the road to find a certain function, increasing the chances of being distracted enough to crash.

Thankfully, we won't have to deal with cockpits like this soon. PHOTO FROM VOLKSWAGEN

Volkswagen and Tesla have been particularly prominent culprits when it comes to complicating simple vehicle controls. You often have to wonder why they are doing it or who signs these things off.

Euro NCAP’s new rules aren’t legally binding, but the coveted five-star rating ranks high in the lists of must-haves of automotive board rooms and marketing departments alike, so hopefully this move will put at least a bit of a stop to the current touchscreen fad.

Or maybe we will see other solutions being developed further. Not too long ago, Volkswagen filed a patent that would eliminate the turn signal lever, and all without the touchscreen. Whatever solution might win, most people will agree that basic controls must be intuitive and easy to use. Luckily, it seems the fine folks at Euro NCAP think so, too.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.