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Tomorrow's world: the touchscreen steering wheel

Mon, 13 Jun 2011

You might think the steering wheel has done a pretty good job of directing cars for the past century. But now a team of researchers from the University of Stuttgart is attempting to reinvent the wheel.

The scientists have come up with a touchscreen steering wheel, which they reckon could replace the humble wheel with stereo and cruise controls.

What's the point of a touchscreen steering wheel? I've got enough distractions as it is!

We did wonder if this was technology gone mad when we first heard of this digital steering wheel. But these uni researchers believe you'll in fact spend more time concentrating on the road ahead as you won't be looking down at switchgear scattered across the dash.

Of course, that's once you've learned the numerous hand gestures and commands required to switch on your radio, air-con, change the volume, station and open the windows. The possibilities are endless.

So how does the touchscreen steering wheel work?

The experimental steering wheel is made of 11mm thick acrylic that is ringed with infrared LEDs. An infrared camera attached to the bottom of the wheel detects reflections when the screen is touched and gestures can be made on the screen without the driver ever having to take their hands off the steering wheel.

If this project ever gets off the ground, you'll understand why the driver in the next lane appears to be doing a Michael Jackson impression.

What's the future of the steering wheel touchscreen?

The team of researchers at the University of Stuttgart believes it will advance this technology so it could be in production this decade.

They're also planning to pair the system with head-up displays to reduce the need to glance down at the multi-controller boss, and have other strategies to keep the driver focused on the road ahead. 

Our biggest problem with it? We've not quite fallen in love with the tricky touchscreens of the latest Jaguars and Land Rovers, which end up hindering where they should help. Doing that on a large scale fills us with dread...





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By Sarah-Jayne Harrison