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  1. New touch-screen steering wheel interface increases safety and maximizes convenience

    by , 06-20-2011 at 05:39 PM

    German engineers have developed a touch screen interface for a steering wheel that allows a driver to control the car’s functions via gestures on a thin (11mm) piece of acrylic. In addition to making these functions more convenient and accessible, researchers also believe that it will decrease accidents caused when drivers take their eyes off the wheel/road in order to change a song, turn on the AC, or look at a map.

    The prototype, developed by researchers from several different German universities, could potentially replace many of the gauges that have traditionally been located behind the steering wheel in the dash. Its multi-touch screen is designed to identify gestures that correspond to certain car functions, most of which could be done using only the driver’s thumbs (keeping the hands on the wheel at all times). So, zooming in on a map or changing songs could be a matter of a couple of intuitive multi-touch gestures.

    Future designs could also interface with head’s up displays that could be projected on the windshield, further reducing the need/temptation to take one’s eyes off the road. It could also interface with traffic updates and proximity sensors to warn drivers when it is especially important to be alert under certain driving conditions. And researchers believe that the airbag will deploy successfully by breaking the thin acrylic screen in the event of an accident.

    Special thank you to JohnWPB for calling my attention to this interesting development. For more information, check out the original article here. Please leave comments below if you have any thoughts about this topic, and if any of you see developments that might be relevant to this site and blog-worthy, please feel free to PM me.

    Updated 06-22-2011 at 12:21 PM by ChasPhillips

    Categories
    Products and Technology
  2. Ford CTO Paul Mascarenas on vehicle technology and safety

    by , 01-28-2011 at 12:30 PM

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    For a sneak peak at the future of vehicle technology, check out Rob Wray’s interview with Ford CTO Paul Mascarenas. In it, Mascarenas explains how Ford plans to deal with several of the increasingly complicated issues facing the industry. How will Ford promote the technological gains stemming from vehicle data collection without sacrificing consumer privacy? Will there be an opt-in feature for drivers, similar to the ones we see in the computer software world? Mascarenas also discusses how Ford intends to keep pace with the consumer electronic world as it relates to the driving experience. His open architecture strategy minimizes the amount of hardware installed in the vehicle, ensuring that consumer electronic development will still be able to interface with an aging car or truck. He even discusses already-developed functionality that allows drivers to control non-critical vehicle function with mobile devices.

    Mascarenas also lays out his multi-pronged strategy to tackle the ever-contentious driver distraction issue, in which he argues that Ford has often pre-empted state-based regulation with voluntary or industry-wide standards. While Mascarenas believes that further federal regulation is and will be required, he emphasizes that Ford continues to minimize the amount of time required to make adjustments while driving, and voluntarily pushes for stricter company- and industry-wide driver distraction standards in order to provide the safest driving experience possible.

    Finally, Mascarenas discusses the relationship between the commercial and consumer vehicle technology. Because he views Ford vehicles as tools for business owners, he believes that increased functionality will ultimately increase business productivity. On the other hand, the commercial vehicle world gives Ford the opportunity to develop new technology that will eventually end up in the consumer sector.