The future is arriving faster. Volkswagen showed some technologies this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that are downright awesome. And unlike most razzle-dazzle unveilings, there isn’t a single thing stopping these technologies from being put into place immediately.
The new user interface for the Golf R Touch has been the biggest buzzmaker. As the name implies, touchscreen displays are the main focus. But what might surprise you is how much the car relies on the absence of touch.
Gesture controls, that murky technology of video game consoles, has made it into Volkswagen’s new Golf. Rather than spend time looking at the screen while driving, the driver or passenger can stick out his or her hand a la Minority Report and open the sunroof, lower the audio volume or engage eco mode on the engine.
We’ve all thought about it, and now Volkswagen’s doing it.
Also notable is that the Golf R Touch actually uses three high resolution displays: one to create an all-digital instrument panel clearly borrowed from Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, a second large screen to dominate the center console and handle gesture inputs, and a third screen below the second to manage climate, media and the other traditional grab bag of controls.
Together these three screens comprise a user interface that, while not quite as streamlined as Audi’s prologue concept, is at least a solid vision of what a car should look like in a smartphone world. The buttons, dials and knobs of the past just don’t fit anymore.
The last refuge of physical buttons appears to be the steering wheel. A little forest of buttons is growing under each of the driver’s thumbs, and it’s easy to imagine those becoming little touch screens. Once even the steering wheel gets the 21st century treatment, engineers will probably look at the gas and brake pedals and think, “Do we really need those?”
Time will tell.