Road Safety News

On the horizon - cars controlled by hand gestures

Wednesday 6th November 2013

Both Google and Ford are in the process of developing vehicles in which a range of functions will be controlled by hand gestures rather than buttons and knobs, according to a report in the Telegraph.

Patent applications by both companies confirm that they are working on technology which will enable drivers to use a swipe gesture to operate, for example, indicators, air conditioning, windscreen wipers, sunroof and windows.

While Google says that passengers could even use gestures to give directions and instructions to a vehicle’s on board computer, the search engine giant claims that gesture recognition will be of most use in preventing drivers from being distracted by buttons and other controls.

Google’s patent says: “While a user is manoeuvring a vehicle, the user may wish to perform a number of additional functions, such as navigating to a destination, changing the temperature in the vehicle, or changing the volume of music playing in the vehicle.

“The user may perform a gesture in a region of the vehicle. Example regions include a steering wheel, an air-conditioning vent, and an ear of the user.

“The predetermined gestures may include, for example, any gesture that an occupant of the vehicle may make with his or her hands, fingers, arms, legs and head. For instance, the predetermined gestures may include swiping, tapping, pointing, grasping, pinching, or waving gestures.”

Ford has also published a similar patent that describes how vehicle controls can be operated using gesture recognition.

Click here to read the full Telegraph report.


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Google will not be involved because of safety innovations primarily, they are more interested with 'infotainment' systems in cars and connectivity which will prove to be more of a distraction than a simple phone. Let's hope it will be better than voice control technology is for navigation/radio/phone functions.
Olly, Lancs

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

Large companies routinely file patents well before they are confident there is a market, to prevent competitors getting in first. The more I read of these many and various ways to interfere in the vital relationships between man and machine the more I prefer my classic cars!
Idris Francis Fight Back with Facts Petersfield

Agree (9) | Disagree (3)

Analogue switches and controls are very expensive in comparison to their digital touch screen menu equivalents. The downside of gesture or touch screen controls is that the eyes have to be diverted away from the road to ensure that the correct task has been selected/completed.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

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Wasn't trying to disparage the good efforts of the car manufacturers obviously. In fact as far back as the 1960s, Ford introduced a clever feature on one of their cars whereby the volume of the radio would increase/decrease with the engine/road speed to save the driver having to keep looking down and adjust it themselves. Brilliant idea, but as far as I know it was not continued.

Also, Cadillac - again in the 1960s - had automatic headlamp dipping when it sensed approaching headlights to save the driver having to do it. Another innovative idea, but I don't think this was continued for much longer either. All good ideas but perhaps not succesful enough to become regular features.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (4) | Disagree (1)

I appreciate that some of the posts here are in jest, but I'm with Matt on this one. I think in discussion threads we are often a bit too quick to 'rubbish' innovation. The people at Ford and Google are far from stupid. If they think there is potential to improve safety by exploring this type of thing, I think we should have more of an open mind on the subject.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (13) | Disagree (0)

To use the phraseology of Google's patent, if, in the 'region of an ear' (I have two) I was trying to shoo away a wasp hovering in the 'region of an ear', the hand gesture involved might accidentally increase the volume of the CD which, if I was listening to 'Flight of the Bumble Bee' would be apt, although at the same time annoying - however if the sunroof then opened as a result of the same hand gesture, it could solve the problem of the wasp anyway. Lots of fun to be had.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

Evolution does not always improve safety and/or ease of use. My previous car had a button to select traffic info on/off. I now have the replacement, which requires me to press Menu, up/down to get traffic, then left/right to toggle on/off. Then I need to press Menu again to get back to the radio display. As I do not routinely travel with traffic info on, and would want to select it if there is a hint of congestion. Dimming the main dashboard used to be a thumbwheel, now also on a multi-press menu. Makes you wonder if anyone ever tries these functions on the road before launch of the car. And I can't help wondering what unwanted functions might get triggered by a wasp!
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (9) | Disagree (2)

Sorry to appear flippant, but might not certain unwanted functions be activated by trying to wave away a wasp?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (7) | Disagree (0)

Vehicle manufacturers spend millions on R&D of their Human-Machine Interfaces in order to make necessary secondary tasks easier for vehicle occupants. Ford has built up a solid reputation for safety over the last decade or so, and I seriously doubt they would be considering this technology if they didn't expect it to offer some safety benefit. This may be a passive benefit, allowing them to redesign the instrument panel to mitigate potential injuries in a collision, or an active benefit in improving the driver's attention to the forward roadway. Certainly worth finding out more before dismissing entirely.
Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire

Agree (10) | Disagree (0)

In the absence of tactile feedback to show that a motor task has been completed the brain requires visual or aural feedback instead. This then requires a screen display or speaker system of some sort to give the driver updates as to the progress of the task. This is just replacing one interface with another, inferior one so is pretty much a non-starter.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

Hummm... people don't don't control their cars with their hands - forget hand gestures. Safety!?
jpr - east midlands

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