Certain new cars will have gesture controls starting next year, reports Damon Lavrinc for Jalopnik — an idea that safe-driving advocates do not like. In a comment below the Jalopnik article, Garrett David writes:
There is literally no situation I can think of that this solves that wouldn’t be more efficient or intuitive to just have a dial or a button on the dash board.
Another commenter posting as “colorfulyawn” writes that the idea of gesture controls in cars “makes my blood boil with rage.”
And a commenter named “doug” writes:
This could not be a more terrible idea. Talk about being distracted while driving! Touch screens are bad enough taking your eyes off the road, but gesture controls are going to take your MIND off the road as you process where and how to wave your hand to complete a function in the car. Try patting your stomach while rubbing your head in a circle. Very hard.
An audio article posted on DW notes that Google applied for a patent on gesture-based car controls. According to an Engadget article by Jon Fingas, the system Google proposes would use a ceiling-mounted depth camera and a laser scanner to pick up the hand positions and motions of anyone in the vehicle. “Swipe near the window and you’ll roll it down; point to the radio and you’ll turn the volume up,” Fingas writes. DW asks: “[W]hat if you sneezed and it changed the station on the radio?”
Lavrinc writes that a company that supplies 3D spatial recognition technology says gesture control is coming soon. Eric Krzeslo, the Chief Marketing Officer of the Brussels-based SoftKinetic, told Automotive News Europe‘s Douglas Bolduc that the technology could be in a production car as early as next year, but he would not reveal which automaker would be out with it first. Companies that have been working on gesture control include Audi, BMW, Ford, and Mercedes-Benz, Lavrinc writes. He speculates that the first car to feature it will be BMW, which has been working on this technology “since the late 00s.”
SoftKinetic (which makes gesture-recognition systems for interactive video games) and automotive semiconductor Melexis created a 3-D sensor that makes it possible for a driver to control navigation, entertainment, and climate-control systems with hand motions, Bolduc writes. The sensor works in both sunlight and total darkness, he adds.
In a comment below the Jalopnik piece, Cole Paquette writes that “if they are going to get rid of regular switch controls,” he would rather have voice commands. Other commenters raise the specter of people who are in the habit of talking with their hands, with “Doctor-G-and-the-wagen” writing: “I talk with my hands a lot (even when driving, which is something I’m trying to get better at NOT doing…) so this would be a huge nightmare for me.”
In a Fox News article, personal tech columnist John R. Quain writes that controlling machines with hand gestures requires learning a whole new language. And learning that language, he adds, “often makes me feel like I’m conducting some strange cyber age form of tai chi (not to mention the strange looks everyone gives me).” It is easier for car technology to prevent a vehicle from crashing into another vehicle than for a machine to understand human movements, Quain writes. He suggests that the perfect system with which humans can communicate with machines has not yet been discovered.
Quain concludes, “Of course, that shouldn’t be too surprising. Just think of how difficult it is for us to understand each other.”
Image by State Farm