A few weeks ago, during the media drive of the 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS, The Car Guide had a discussion with Koray Sever, Telematics engineer for the upcoming E-Class. The chat was okay, in the sense that he knew his speech by heart. Nice dashboard, attractive technology, but nothing to write home about.
However, while we were talking, our friendly engineer did mention a tidbit of information that got my attention. We learned that gesture control will soon appear in the German brand’s vehicles. This marks another important milestone in the evolution of the automobile, whether it’s Mercedes or another manufacturer that markets it first.
What is gesture control? In short, it’s the interpretation of human gestures by a computer in order to operate an electronic device. In this case, the device is a dashboard. By simply moving one or two hands, fingers or head, it will be possible to configure pretty much every setting inside a car. The idea isn’t new, and many other companies are working on this future technology. Volkswagen, notably, developed an infotainment screen that illuminates more brightly as a hand approaches. BMW is already offering gesture control for a few accessories in its 7 Series. However, Mercedes-Benz wants to take the technology a step further and bring a more exhaustive system to the market.
A hand, a finger, a head?
By triturating our engineer, we learned a little more about the technology. If gesture control is still in development for the automotive industry, it’s ready to be tested, at least at Mercedes-Benz. However, there are still some issues to be sorted out. Mr. Sever admitted that there are still discussions within the walls of Mercedes to determine just how far gesture control should go. “Should we initially use the technology to control just the sound system, or stereo and climate controls as well as turn signal activation?” Sever also said that Mercedes was still thinking about what the gestures should be. Could we use one finger for a certain command, and two fingers for another? Stuff like that. There’s also a question of culture. Certain parts of the world embrace new technologies, while others don’t. They can’t push and shove some people in order to please others.
At the start, buttons, good old touchscreens and control knobs such as COMAND or iDrive systems will obviously support gesture control. Koray Sever didn’t say when the technology would arrive, but the next generation of vehicles (which ones? Still a mystery… the SLK perhaps?) will offer it. Within two years seems to me like an attainable window.
And I wouldn’t be surprised if, in 2025, the most basic Hyundai Accent was equipped with gesture control. For now, let’s see what Mercedes-Benz or another luxury brand will do with human movement.