BMW’s new system uses a tiny overhead camera that’s trained on the area above the gearshift lever, since most drivers automatically put an elbow on the centre armrest and point just below the screen.
The camera captures the hand movement and relays that to the infotainment system, which analyzes it and then performs the appropriate action.
That’s consistent with the path almost all automakers are taking with layers of redundant systems.
When you want to adjust the volume on some stereos, you have your choice of hitting a button on the steering wheel, tapping the touchscreen, talking to the voice command, or simply reaching over and spinning the volume knob.
Some screens have motion sensors, displaying function buttons only when you put your hand close enough.
Lexus uses a console-mounted controller that looks and works like a computer mouse, while Tesla handles every vehicle function with massive electronic screens. Many touchscreens are sluggish or unresponsive when they’re cold, and complex ones can have a substantial learning curve.
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I’ve often made hand gestures while I’m driving, but they’ve never had any effect other than getting my point across.
Consumers are torn on the styling — many think it looks tacked-on — but it keeps your eyes up when you’re looking at it, so you’re still seeing at least some of what’s going on outside the windshield.
According to a BMW rep, the company has historically resisted putting in a touchscreen because it believes it’s less distracting to reach down for the console joystick, which is located in a spot where most drivers naturally rest their hands, and it isn’t necessary to look down at the console in order to operate the dial.
However, the touchscreen has become an industry standard that many customers want, and so the company has gone along with it.
Another benefit is that since designers don’t have to dedicate a large chunk of the centre stack to a screen, they can make the dash lower, which in turn makes the interior look roomier and helps improve visibility.
Gesture Control is currently only available on the top-line 7 Series, but it’s expected to eventually show up in other BMW models.
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