The new, fourth-generation Mazda3 hatchback and sedan will not be offered with a touchscreen, despite the majority of their rivals featuring such interfaces. Why? Well, the Japanese brand says it’s all about maximising safety and driver involvement.
“We moved the screen farther away to minimise eye refocus time,” Matthew Valbuena, Mazda R&D engineer, told motoring.com.au.
“So, the amount of time it takes for you look at the car ahead and look at the screen is reduced when the screen is farther away because you don’t have that dramatic difference in distance that requires your eyes to adjust.
“So, because the screen is farther away there is no longer any touchscreen functionality,” Valbuena explained to the Australian publication.
Instead, the driver controls various infotainment features via an evolution of Mazda’s familiar centre-console-mounted dial system (as pictured below).
While Valbuena conceded not all customers would appreciate the shunning of flashy touchscreens, he was adamant the safety benefits would outweigh any negative sentiment, saying the firm “did lots of research and testing with cameras and sensor data looking at steering input”.
“It does seem a little counterintuitive, but when you look at it from the viewpoint of driver safety, a supported driving position is best.
“What people don’t realise is, yeah, it’s really easy to reach out and touch the touchscreen and execute what they want to do, but in a driving scenario you can’t operate a touchscreen without taking your eyes off the road.
“When you have your hands on the steering wheel and you reach … you inadvertently add torsion to the wheel. You are actually turning the wheel so the lane centring position is varying.
“So, to avoid that concern and really optimise the driving function – because when the driver is behind the wheel that’s the most important function they should be doing – we removed the touchscreen interface.”
The new Mazda3 is scheduled to arrive in South Africa in the second half of 2019.