Mazda Nixes Touchscreen Interfaces

Mazda Motor Corp. has decided to help minimize driver distractions by not using tablet-like touchscreen control functions in its new vehicles.

The carmaker says its research showed that touchscreens cause drivers to look away from the road longer than is typical when operating other controls. Touchscreens also tend to be located closer to the driver, which can extend the time it takes to refocus eyes.

Another potential problem: Reaching for a touchscreen can cause drivers to unintentionally turn the steering wheel with their other hand. As a result, Mazda notes, a vehicle could drift out of its lane while the driver is looking away.

Instead of touchscreens, future Mazda models will use a mix of traditional knobs and buttons, plus a new “Command Controller” rotary dial similar to devices used by several European carmakers. The system is being introduced this year on the redesigned Mazda3 (pictured) small car.

The Mazda3’s 8.8-inch non-touch center display also has been moved farther away and is angled slightly toward the driver to improve visibility. With a priority on driving-related information, ancillary infotainment items such as what song is playing and caller identification won’t be displayed. A unified white hue will be used across all the displays and lighting.

The Command Controller is repositioned within the center console to improve menu navigation and access by shorter drivers. Top-end models are fitted with a head-up display that projects certain driver information onto the windshield.

Enhancements also have been made to the car’s knobs and buttons. This includes standardizing the amount of stroke and rotation force required to operate various features.

Other shortcuts have been added too. For example, tapping the volume control mutes the system, and turning the knob slightly to the right or left will forward or reverse an audio track.