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Blink to drive future cars?

26 January 2012, 15:04

Automakers are working on entirely new control systems for the cars of the future that will work like smartphones or tablet computers.

Conventional knobs, levers and switches might be a thing of the past and even the touch screens found will be replaced as carmakers try to find clever solutions to vehicle control systems.

Mercedes researcher Bharat Balasubramanian said: "With such a lot of data coming to the driver today and so many new possibilities, the conventional operating systems are not enough.

Audi developer Werner Hamberger said: "Cameras and infra-red sensors recognise the movement of the hand and measure the distance with the electronics, thus understanding every movement pattern and command."


Audi showcased a cabin fitted with three heads-up displays that project information onto the windscreen. The image to the left can only be seen by the driver while the image to the right can only be seen by the passenger. The central image can be seen by both.

It works something like this: the central image shows up several menus from which the driver and passenger can choose. The passenger can watch films or choose destinations and, should the driver agree with the passenger's destination, a wink to the left can select and enter it into the GPS system.

Similar steps are being taken by Mercedes with its Dice system, which uses a steering wheel without levers or switches and requires simple gestures to scroll through menus and select options.


According to designer Hartmut Sinkwitz, the entire windscreen functions as a computer screen. Simply by pointing a finger, music can be downloaded into the car from nearby clubs or shops. The GPS system pinpoints location of friends, while hotels bookings or cinema tickets can be bought while driving past.

The Cadillac ATS features a newly developed CUE system that works with only four switches compared to the many buttons for a normal car radio.

The next-generation Ford Mondeo, called the Fusion in the US, has a system developed jointly with Microsoft. The Sync system works in conjunction with speech-recognition that can also be used for external gadgets like a mobile phone. The new Dodge Dart has a touchscreen almost as large as a tablet PC.

According to Audi's Hamberger, we are still years away from a head-up display that can be operated by hand movements. However, a touchwheel system for the GPS will be in the new Audi A3. A destination can be chosen by fingertip, making cumbersome scrolling through the alphabet obsolete.

- Wheels24


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