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The touchscreen pullback is the result of consumer backlash, not the enactment of overdue regulations or an awakening of corporate responsibility. Many drivers want buttons, not screens, and they’ve given carmakers an earful about it. Auto executives have long brushed aside safety concerns about their complex displays—and all signs suggest they would have happily kept doing so. But their customers are revolting, which has forced them to pay attention.

For well over a decade, touchscreens have spread like a rash across dashboards. As with other dangerous trends in car design (see the steering yoke), this one can be traced back to Tesla, which has for years positioned its vehicles as “tablets on wheels.” As a result, touchscreens were seen as representing tech-infused modernity. But cost has been a factor, too. “These screens are presented as this avant garde, minimalist design,” said Matt Farah, a car reviewer and host of The Smoking Tire, an auto-focused YouTube channel and podcast. “But really, it’s the cheapest way possible of building an interior.” Although they look fancy, Farah said that carmakers can purchase screens for less than $50, making them significantly less expensive than tactile controls.

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