Yesterday at its CES press conference, Nvidia talked a lot about how it believes the future of the car will involve large numbers of screens. Today, Volkswagen debuted its prototype of the Golf R Touch, which includes the automaker’s vision of what the car of the future’s user interface will look like. It’s surprisingly similar to Nvidia’s.
As VW’s Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neußer noted in today’s keynote, the company is “concentrating on improved info transfer from the car to the driver and vice versa.” This means lots of touchscreens, but also a focus on gesture control.
The center panel of the R Touch, for example, includes a 12.8-inch main screen for all the infotainment functions with a small 8-inch control center screen underneath it to operate climate control and similar features. The dashboard has also been replaced by a 12.3-inch widescreen display that replaces the classic instrument cluster.
“We took our lead from consumer electronics interfaces and uses and refined it for automotive applications.”
Touchscreens in cars aren’t all that new, of course, but it’s only now that we are seeing interfaces that can live up to our current expectations (which were mainly set by the latest generation of phones and tablets).
VW built two interesting additional innovations into this car. Hold up your open hand for two seconds and a Kinect like gesture control pops up (including a ghost image of your hand) that lets you control all of the car’s features without even touching a screen. And using VW’s multi-touch sliders, you can put one to three fingers on the screen and, depending on how many fingers you’re using, you can control the radio’s volume or set the ambient light (this looks to be a pretty customizable feature). All of this comes with haptic feedback, too.
All of the car’s other traditional buttons have also been replaced with capacitive buttons.
As we add more technologies to cars the risk of distractions only increases. In a way, touchscreens are maybe even more likely to be a distraction because you can’t just grip a button blindly. Instead, you pretty much have to at least glance at the screen briefly. It looks like VW is trying to get around this with its multi-touch slider system. How well the gesture control works remains to be seen, though. At first glance, it looks more like a distraction than a safety feature.
Because this is a prototype, the company didn’t reveal when it plans to bring this to production cars or what this system will cost. A VW representative also declined to discuss the technology stack behind it (though I wouldn’t be surprised if it were Nvidia’s).