A few days ago an interesting verdict found its way through the media. A Tesla driver came off the road while tapping his touchscreen and collided with several trees. Of the Spiegel reported about it. The court saw the use of the touchscreen as an administrative offense and punished this with a fine of € 200. In addition, it imposed a one-month driving ban.
The judges argued that the driver illegally used an electronic device. Like a smartphone, it also includes a touchscreen. (District court Karlsruhe Az. 1 Rb 36 Ss 832/19) The judgment throws a bad light on Tesla's progressive interior concept of the large displays. Because nothing works without a look and pressure on the screen. But not only that. Because all manufacturers have long been emulating this trend.
Trying to adjust the speed of the windshield wiper.
Apparently it was raining on the day of the accident and the driver was driving a Model 3. Model S and X have a steering column lever (from Mercedes) for the windshield wiper, model 3 does not. The speed of the windshield wiper can be controlled via the touchscreen, it takes 3 clicks. While the driver clicked through the menu items, he came off the road. A failure of the driver? Also. You could possibly add a few lines about adapted speeds in certain traffic situations.
But the problem is deeper.
Cars have long since mutated into button-free environments. The counter-trend to the wonderfully overloaded dashboards of the 90s is manifesting itself in ever larger and more numerous displays. The wave is rolling and will only gradually hit the market. It's not just about Tesla. Volkswagen and the Group's new electric cars are also affected. Testers of the ID3 cautiously criticize the poor usability of basic functions.
If adjusting the interior temperature becomes a problem, and adjusting the windshield wipers is an adventure, then something is going seriously wrong. It's not only about aesthetics or comfort for a long time. It's about road safety. All assistance systems in the world are pointless if you take over a rental car in the middle of the night, the usability of which mutates into an adventure.
The legislature could remedy this.
Touchscreens and digitization in the car go hand in hand. There will be no turning back. The idea that manufacturers should always keep a variant with analogue ads in their portfolio will not work either. The cost watchers in the corporations would suggest immediate termination to anyone who presents them.
The solution word: redundancy.
In aircraft construction, all essential systems are duplicated. Just in case something should fail. At Saab, they indulged this basic idea with passion. The Swedes installed double bulbs in many models so that a brake light would still function properly if one of the bulbs fails.
This is how it should be in the car of the future. Analog switches for all light functions, windshield wipers, hazard warning lights and perhaps the air conditioning should be available - parallel to the operability and configuration via the touchpad. The legislator could prescribe this and demand redundancy. That would require some additional hardware, but the cost would be manageable.
Redundancy as a future issue.
The more vehicles there will only be on the road with touchscreens, the more the user (driver) will be confronted with displays that remain black in the future. Then when the touchpad stops working while driving or has a complete breakdown in the start-up phase. Or when the system initiates an unplanned reboot.
After all, you could still operate the most important functions in analog mode and bring the car to a safe stop on the roadside.
There is not any? Never happens Some drivers of older Tesla models have already had this experience. Failure of the display, important information missing. Fortunately, the manufacturer supplies, which is not a matter of course, replacements on fair terms.
Black screens aren't a thing of any particular brand or age either. Users who are on the road with current vehicles from a southern German premium brand are increasingly reporting this problem.
Some redundancy would feel reassuring under these circumstances.