German automaker Audi uses a touchpad control as well as the standard knob for its vehicles’ infotainment systems, a unique selling point. Autopia recently posted a report that rival BMW looks to create a similar system, a move most likely to send car enthusiasts to flame BMW’s online boards, accusing the German automaker of being a “luxury vehicle” sellout instead of a pure sports car maker.
Audi’s touchpad system works similar to those found on laptops. In Audi’s case, the user draws simple figures representing letters and numbers one at a time. The Audi MMI’s “brain” deciphers the gestures into the appropriate character and displays it on the screen. Users can then simply write location names and addresses into the MMI’s navigation screen instead of scroll/press the control knob, if they find using the knob tedious, or don’t like the voice commands.
The Audi touchpad system can be found in the Audi A8 full-sized sedan, A7 hatchback, and the upcoming A3 compact. BMW plans to go beyond the Audi touch system, though. Autopia reports BMW iDrive system incorporates hand movements to navigate the system, allowing users to increase/decrease audio volume to change map views.
It’s currently unknown if/when this “gesture-based system” will arrive in future BMW vehicles. Autopia cites sources who say BMW upper-ups will see a demo of the system next month with the production version available 2014 through 2015. The technology may even appear on BMW’s electric vehicle lineup (i.e., BMW i3, i8).
Automotive.com’s take: We’re looking forward to when a car enthusiast/techno geek breaks into the future iDrive’s gesture-based system and reprograms it to recognize–and react–to more…obscene…hand signs. You just know there’ll be footage on YouTube.