Carmakers must bring back physical controls to get a 5-star safety rating in Europe

The European voluntary car safety performance evaluator, New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP), wants carmakers to bring back physical controls for turn signals, hazard lights, windshield wipers, the horn, or SOS features. Otherwise, points will be deducted starting in 2026.

Using a touchscreen instead of physical or touch switches comes with security risks, as drivers are forced to navigate menus while distracted from driving, according to Euro NCAP.

The car safety body introduced new guidance for 2026, which includes requirements for a car to receive a five-star safety rating: indicators, hazard warning lights, windscreen wipers, a horn, and SOS features will have to be controlled by proper switches.

Vehicles in Europe use the eCall system to automatically make a free 112 emergency call if the vehicle is involved in a serious road accident. It can also be activated manually by pushing a button.

“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,” Matthew Avery, director of strategic development at Euro NCAP, told The Times.

“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.”

Some users are complaining about their Tesla cars, which ditched physical buttons for touchscreen controls.

“The absence of a physical speed control for the windshield wipers is the single worst design flaw of Teslas. Or at least it was, until they removed the physical turn signal controls. I'm very much in favor of requiring safety critical controls that must be used frequently or urgently to be physical,” one Tesla driver said, expressing support on the Hacker News forum.

While Euro NCAP requirements are not mandatory, safety scores are one of the most compelling selling points for new vehicles. Therefore, carmakers are expected to adjust their designs to meet the newly introduced standards.

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