- Automakers are incorporating gesture-recognition technology into navigation, infotainment and other in-car systems.
- Probably the most familiar example is the foot-activated liftgate available on the 2014 Ford Escape.
- Other manufacturers working on the technology include BMW, GM, Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz, along with Google.
DEARBORN, Michigan — Automakers are finding new ways to incorporate the latest developments in gesture-recognition technology into navigation, infotainment and other in-car systems.
Probably the most familiar example does not involve a hand, but a foot gesture. Ford's foot-activated liftgate — available on the 2014 Ford Escape and a number of other models — uses special sensors that allow a package-laden driver to open the rear hatch by swiping a foot under the bumper.
Other manufacturers have been experimenting with similar sensing devices to detect hand and even facial movements to control everything from entertainment systems to windshield wipers.
Honda demonstrated its Gathers Advance 4 multimedia system, which combines voice control and gesture recognition, at the 2012 Tokyo Auto Salon and has since filed patent applications for the technology.
Cadillac's CUE (Cadillac User Experience), which debuted in the Cadillac XTS and ATS sedans and SRX crossover, includes an 8-inch LCD touchscreen that controls a variety of infotainment functions. The system features sensors that recognize a hand approaching the screen and call up a variety of menu options. The gestures are similar to those used with smartphones and tablets.
Mercedes-Benz introduced its concept DICE (Dynamic and Intuitive Control Experience) system at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show. To activate navigation, phone or music, the user motions toward the desired area, then makes a button-pushing motion to select various menu items.
Developers working on BMW's ConnectedDrive system are concentrating on six specific gestures — hand movements up and down, left and right and toward or away from the screen — which can be used to control many functions within the vehicle.
For the moment, most automakers are focusing on infotainment and nav systems, but other gesture-based functions being tested include some basic vehicle controls.
Late last year Google acquired tech startup Flutter, which had developed a gesture-control app, and a short time later Google filed a patent application for "Gesture-Based Automotive Controls." Some of the functions specifically mentioned in the application include air-conditioning, heater, cruise control system, audio system, seat controls, windows, windshield wipers, entertainment system and sunroof.
The point of all this, of course, is to reduce distracted driving by eliminating fumbling for buttons and switches. But as the technology advances, it's critical that the gadgets not make things worse. As a BMW statement cautions: "Gestures need to be short, concise and unambiguous. They must not distract the driver or negatively impact his ability to control the car in any way."
Edmunds says: The concept of a gesture-controlled car is edging closer to reality.