Euro NCAP to punish manufacturers for excessive touchscreen controls

European vehicle safety non-profit Euro NCAP has unveiled plans for a new safety score 2026 that will include an assessment of the ease of use of essential controls. Cars that force drivers to use touch controls for features like wipers and indicators will be punished and risk the all-important five-star safety rating.

The auto industry has been trending toward generalizing large touchscreens for some time now, with some going further than others by moving every function to these displays and touch-sensitive ‘buttons’.

Tesla and Volvo worst offenders?

Tesla is a prime example of this, with even the indicators on the new Model 3, Model S, and Model X now being accessible via touch buttons on the steering wheel rather than the traditional stalks. But Volvo is also moving toward this, especially in the new EX30, which groups almost everything on the central display.

Euro NCAP, the non-profit that judges new vehicles on their safety performance, wants to combat this trend and has announced a new scoring system for 2026. The system considers the ease of use of critical functions. The reasoning is that the longer drivers have to take their eyes off the road to adjust something, the higher the risk of an accident.

Tesla has chosen to move the indicators of its most recent vehicles to touch controls on the steering wheel, which Euro NCAP will punish from 2026 /Tesla

Five essential functions

Euro NCAP has chosen five essential functions to be judged for their ease of use: indicators, hazard lights, the horn, windscreen wipers, and the eCall SOS function. These functions must be accessible via physical buttons, stalks, or dials to achieve a maximum score in the vehicle’s safety rating.

However, these functions do not have a huge impact on the overall score. They will only count for 5 out of the 100 points in the ‘Safe Driving’ category. However, Euro NCAP does not rule out increasing the significance of physical controls in the future to further incentivize manufacturers to dial back the use of touch screens.

Longer list needed?

Several automotive media outlets have highlighted that the list of ‘essential’ functions should be expanded to include climate and volume controls. These are by far the most frequently hidden functions behind infotainment menus and awkward touch controls with many manufacturers.


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