2011 BMW Vision ConnectedDrive ConceptEnlarge Photo
Mercedes-Benz’s vision of the future, for example, replaces conventional controls with simple and intuitive hand gestures. Voice commands and voice recognition will improve to the point where drivers will converse with their cars, for better or for worse.
BMW has a slightly different vision for the next generation of switchgear and controls, and it involves touch-sensitive fabrics. Researchers from Montreal, Canada’s Polytechnic School have developed fabrics with the ability to respond to touch commands.
NewScientist, via World Car Fans, quotes researcher Maksim Skorobogatiy as saying, “we are trying to reproduce the smartphone experience in textile form.” Such fabric could ultimately replace both push-button and dial controls, making interiors more aesthetically pleasing and controls more intuitive.
A polymer-based fiber is woven into the fabric, and it carries an electrical charge. Finger touches change the capacitance of that charge, which can then send a signal to turn a system on or off, or even adjust a setting.
If you want to raise the temperature in the cabin, an upward swipe on a fabric panel may do the trick. Changing the radio station preset on future cars may be as simple as a horizontal finger swipe.
BMW has already embraced the idea of touch sensitive surfaces, demonstrating the idea in the Vision ConnectedDrive Concept shown at last year’s Geneva Motor Show. Although the idea is still likely years from production, it’s likely that future cars will use touch-sensitive fabrics for a wide variety of applications.