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Hyundai Design Chief Promises Buttons Will Always Have a Place

There’s a growing divide in the automotive community over whether buttons or screens are the better approach to interior design. Automakers seem hellbent on replacing every physical control with a less tactile touch-sensitive button, but at least one has put a stake in the ground for buttons. Hyundai’s head of design recently told journalists that the automaker would continue to use physical buttons for some controls, noting that it’s essential that the driver be able to feel controls for safety and other vital vehicle settings.

“We will continue to have physical dials,” Sang Yup Lee said at the launch of the international Hyundai Kona. When it comes to Level 4 autonomous driving, then we’ll have everything soft key, but until then, as I said, when it comes to driving, it’s safest to have your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.”

Without a tactile feel, drivers often have to look at the touch control they’re about to interact with. That distraction, coupled with the sometimes confusing nature of touch controls, can present safety challenges and extend reaction times,

Lee’s statement is promising to hear at a time when many automakers are cutting buttons completely. Volkswagen infamously replaced physical controls with a fully touch-sensitive system in the new Golf GTI and R but has since backtracked a bit, saying the next versions will have some physical controls.