If Cars With Touchscreens Are Unsafe at Any Speed, Why Do We Have Them?

Studies show how distracting car touchscreens can be, yet many automakers still use them, perhaps because they’re cheaper to upgrade than physical components.

A woman uses the touchscreen in her car.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

With homage to Ralph Nader, author of Unsafe at Any Speed, a landmark in consumer advocacy and journalism, today’s story looks at just how little the major auto manufacturers care about safety by forcing us to take our eyes off the road to navigate often confusing touchscreens and turning us into distracted drivers.

While most people think of Tesla as the first automobile with all functions contained in a 17-inch touchscreen, first place actually goes to the 1986 Buick Riviera with its Graphic Control Center for climate control, radio, graphic equalizer, trip calculations, gauges and vehicle diagnostic information. It is “a bad joke,” automotive journalist Brock Yates wrote in September 1986. It “does nothing that a conventional array of knobs, buttons and analog instruments could not do in a fraction of the time.”

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H. Dennis Beaver, Esq.
Attorney at Law, Author of "You and the Law"

After attending Loyola University School of Law, H. Dennis Beaver joined California's Kern County District Attorney's Office, where he established a Consumer Fraud section. He is in the general practice of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column, "You and the Law." Through his column he offers readers in need of down-to-earth advice his help free of charge. "I know it sounds corny, but I just love to be able to use my education and experience to help, simply to help. When a reader contacts me, it is a gift."