Europe Tells Car Manufacturers: Reinstate Buttons for Better Safety Score

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Europe Tells Car Manufacturers: Reinstate Buttons for Better Safety Score

Driving my wife’s Tesla Model 3 recently, I encountered an intriguing scenario with the Autopilot feature. The car had just been updated, making the Autopilot’s reminders more frequent and, frankly, a bit intrusive. While navigating the vehicle’s menu for a specific setting, the system frequently prompted me to keep my eyes on the road. This safety feature is undeniably important, yet it sparked a thought: shouldn’t accessing these controls be simpler, ensuring drivers can remain focused on the road ahead?

Today on Critical Materials, we delve into the trending demand in Europe for cars to reintroduce physical buttons and dials. We’ll also explore why Tesla continues to dominate the public charging scene and examine Polestar CEO’s perspective on the skepticism around electric vehicles, suggesting skeptics are caught in a “remarkable misunderstanding.”

30%: Europe Advocates for Reinstating Physical Controls for Enhanced Safety

The European New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP), Europe’s benchmark for auto safety assessments, similar to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the U.S., is set to enforce new regulations that prioritize driver safety through the design of car interiors. From 2026, achieving top safety ratings from Euro NCAP will necessitate incorporating physical buttons for key car functions.

Five crucial functions will need to be controlled by physical buttons rather than through infotainment screen menus: turn signal indicators, windshield wipers, the vehicle’s horn, hazard lights, and any integrated SOS features. This shift aims to make these essential controls more intuitive and accessible, reducing driver distraction.

This requirement, although it may seem obvious to some, poses a challenge for car manufacturers like Tesla and Volkswagen, who have favored a minimalist approach by integrating many controls into touchscreen menus. This design choice has faced criticism from both consumers and regulators for potentially complicating the use of basic functions, emphasizing the importance of ease and safety over aesthetic simplicity.

Matthew Avery, Euro NCAP’s Head of Strategic Development, outlines:

The overuse of touchscreens is an industry-wide problem, with almost every vehicle-maker moving key controls onto central touchscreens, obliging drivers to take their eyes off the road and raising the risk of distraction crashes. New Euro NCAP tests due in 2026 will encourage manufacturers to use separate, physical controls for basic functions in an intuitive manner, limiting eyes-off-road time and therefore promoting safer driving.

While it’s rare to see functions like the horn and hazard lights buried in a menu, the Euro NCAP’s focus on elements such as turn signal indicators and windshield wiper controls is grounded in reality, with several cars on the market already incorporating these features into digital interfaces.

60%: Tesla’s Crucial Role in Elevating America’s Charging Infrastructure

Tesla deserves recognition for creating the most comprehensive, reliable, and leading charging network available. This is the reason behind other car manufacturers integrating Tesla’s charging system and network. Tesla continues to lead in the expansion of actual charging capabilities.

This significance is underscored by an Automotive News headline, which reveals a stark contrast: Excluding Tesla’s contributions, the U.S. would only achieve 3% of its 2030 goals for DC fast-charger accessibility. With Tesla included, progress jumps to 9.1% towards the target.

Essentially, the expansion of this charging network is not keeping pace:

The lab’s February report found that the U.S. added 2,696 fast-charging ports in the third quarter of 2023, an 8.3 percent increase. The rate of growth for fast chargers trailed that of both the slower Level 1 and Level 2 chargers.

There “should be a lot more chargers being installed,” said Akshay Singh, an automotive partner at PwC Strategy&. The number of fast chargers being installed “is increasing, but also it’s not as fast as it should be. It’s not enough.”

The gradual progress toward charger targets comes as the rate of the EV transition has slowed, leaving inventory on lots and sales lagging even in states like California with enthusiastic adopters. California registered 89,993 electric light passenger vehicles in the fourth quarter, a 10 percent decline from the 101,151 in the third quarter, according to data compiled for the California New Car Dealers Association by Experian Automotive.

Analysts, automakers and drivers acknowledge that range anxiety and a lack of reliable and accessible charging are part of the problem. A J.D. Power study from last month found that public chargers are slowly becoming more reliable, but that they are often dogged by long wait times.

90%: Polestar’s Chief Asserts Skeptics of EVs Are Falling into a ‘Significant Misstep’

The shift toward electric vehicles (EVs) marks a pivotal moment for the global automotive sector, propelled by regulatory mandates aimed at reducing tailpipe emissions. This transition, inevitable and dictated by environmental concerns, presents automakers with a significant challenge: aligning consumer demand with the massive financial investment required for battery manufacturing and updating production facilities.

Recently, in response to fluctuating demand, several car manufacturers have scaled back EV production, adjusting their focus to maintain a balance between electric and traditional combustion engine vehicles. Some have even reconsidered their electrification strategies, either by omitting previously set goals for international markets or by extending their timelines for achieving these objectives. Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath views these adjustments as a significant misstep, suggesting that companies are inadvertently setting themselves up for future challenges.

This is what Ingenlath shared with The Telegraph:

There’s an incredible threat and danger if you don’t embrace future innovation and believe in that technology – the electric drivetrains, the innovation in battery, the innovation in modern electronics and software. If you don’t participate in that and think you can wait, and customers are ready for it, it’s an incredible trap.

Polestar remains steadfast in its commitment to electrification, indicating a clear direction despite recent financial concerns linked to its affiliate, Volvo. The company is vigorously moving forward with its plan for comprehensive electrification. The production of its latest electric model, the Polestar 3, has already started in China, with plans to extend production to its South Carolina facility later this year.

Ingenlath, Polestar’s CEO, has highlighted the significant potential he sees in developing high-end performance electric vehicles, pointing out a notable gap in the current market with minimal competition. This strategic insight suggests Polestar may be gearing up to introduce some exciting performance-focused models in the near future.

100%: What’s Your Take On Buttons?

The debate over physical buttons in cars, especially among Tesla enthusiasts, is indeed divided. Some argue that buttons and stalks clutter the interior, favoring a sleek, minimalist design. On the other hand, many advocate for the necessity of physical controls for safety and convenience, arguing that frequently used functions should be easily accessible without diverting attention from driving. Specifically, the use of stalks is highlighted as crucial, especially for actions like signaling in roundabouts, where combining steering wheel presses with turns can be challenging.

So, what’s your preference? Are you for a clean, streamlined dashboard, or do you lean towards a cockpit rich with tactile, easy-to-navigate buttons? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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