New technologies have always played a major role in the automotive industry. In fact, the automotive industry’s willingness to embrace new technologies can be traced all the way back to 1913, when the invention of the chain conveyor made it possible for Henry Ford to produce a vehicle for the masses for the first time.
A lot has changed in the automotive industry since then. New technologies have transformed the way vehicles are manufactured, designed, powered, and operated. But the technological changes in the automotive industry are far from over. Now, experts believe that technology will start to change the way in which humans interact with their vehicles. Here’s what you should expect in the future:
The Current State of Car-Driver Interactions
In today’s world, drivers typically interact with their vehicles in one of two ways. The first method of interaction is pushing buttons or adjusting mechanical knobs and switches inside the vehicle.
For example, if you want to adjust the temperature on your air conditioner, you may need to push a button to turn the heating and cooling system on. Then, you may need to turn the mechanical knob to the right or left to select the desired temperature. You may also need to push a button to tell your vehicle to direct the cool air to the vents aimed at your face. This means you will need to use three different mechanical controls to issue this simple command to your vehicle.
Every system within the vehicle must have its own set of mechanical controls, which means there are dozens of buttons, knobs, and switches that are used to control a vehicle. Each switch, button, and knob is marked with a unique symbol or label to help the driver identify what it is used to control.
The second method of interaction is issuing commands to your vehicle through a touchscreen, which is often built into the vehicle’s center console. You can use a menu to navigate to various pages on the touchscreen. Each of these pages will feature controls for different systems within the vehicle, such as the music, navigational system, phone, and heating and cooling system. All of these systems are controlled directly through the touchscreen, which eliminates the need for dozens of mechanic controls.
Most vehicles today are designed with touchscreens rather than mechanical controls. However, many consumers still own older vehicles without touchscreens, which means the only way they can interact with their vehicle is by using mechanical controls.
The Future of Car-Driver Interactions
There are a number of technologies that could completely change the way drivers interact with their vehicles in the future, including:
- Speech Recognition
- Gesture Recognition
- Biometric Scans
- Wearable Connectivity
- Vision Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Mind Reading
Future vehicles may use speech recognition technology to identify and respond to voice commands.
For example, you might be able to use your voice to ask your vehicle to change the radio station or look up directions to a specific address.
This is the same technology that supports Siri, Alexa, and other virtual assistants. But rather than speaking to your phone, you may be able to issue voice commands to your vehicle instead.
Gesture recognition technology is similar to voice recognition technology. But instead of voice commands, this technology identifies and responds to hand signals and other types of gestures.
This technology would allow you to roll down the window, open the sunroof, turn on the windshield wipers, place phone calls, and control the music simply by making different hand gestures.
Each command would be associated with a unique hand gesture. Moving your left hand up and down could tell your vehicle to roll down the window, whereas moving it back and forth in front of you could indicate that you want the windshield wipers turned on.
Drivers may be able to interact with their vehicles in the future using biometric identifiers such as their fingerprints, facial patterns, hand geometry, and irises.
For instance, the vehicle may be designed to use facial recognition technology to scan your facial pattern once you sit down in the driver’s seat. The vehicle could use your unique facial pattern to identify you as the driver. Then, the vehicle could automatically make certain adjustments to fit your needs. This might include adjusting the seat to the proper position, turning the air conditioner down to the temperature you prefer, and playing your favorite song.
This technology could also be used for other purposes, such as accessing locked vehicles and starting the engine without a key.
In the future, vehicles may be designed with technology that allows them to connect to the driver’s Apple Watch, FitBit, or other wearable devices.
This would allow your vehicle to closely monitor your vital signs and overall health while you’re behind the wheel. After an accident, this technology might enable the vehicle to quickly assess your injuries to determine whether or not you are in need of emergency medical assistance.
Vision Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Vision AI, which is often referred to as computer vision, may also be included in the design of future vehicles. This type of technology allows a computer to identify and process its surroundings just like a human does. In other words, it gives a computer the power to see the world through a human’s eyes.
Some experts believe that this technology could be used to determine whether or not passengers are wearing their seat belts properly. Knowing who is in the vehicle and if they are wearing their seat belt will help the vehicle determine which airbags to deploy in the event of an accident.
This technology could also be used to monitor your eye movements to look for signs of fatigue while you are behind the wheel. If your eye movements indicate you are getting drowsy, the vehicle might keep you alert by making your seat vibrate or setting off a loud alarm within the cabin.
Experts also believe that automotive manufacturers are currently researching how to develop technology that would allow the driver to control their vehicle using only their thoughts. But unlike the other technologies on this list, mind-reading technology may not ever come to fruition.
What Are the Benefits of Changing the Car-Driver Interaction?
Using new technologies to change the car-driver interaction could benefit drivers in many different ways, including:
- Allows for a hands-free driving experience. Speech recognition technology would allow you to interact with your vehicle without taking your hands off of the wheel. You could use your voice to issue commands instead of taking your eyes off of the road to search for the right mechanical control. This will ensure you stay focused on the road, which could lead to fewer distracted driving accidents.
- Reduce drowsy driving accidents. Drowsy driving is one of the leading causes of traffic accidents today. In the future, vision AI technology could be used to keep fatigued drivers awake and alert behind the wheel. If successful, vision AI technology could keep the roads safer by reducing the number of drowsy driving accidents.
- Sleeker car design. Emerging technologies such as gesture recognition, speech recognition, and vision AI may eliminate the need for mechanical switches, buttons, and knobs inside the vehicle. Getting rid of these mechanical controls would make the interior of the vehicle look sleeker and more sophisticated.
- Creates a more personalized driving experience. Future vehicles may use biometric identifiers to verify your identity and automatically adjust to your preferred settings. In other words, this technology would be capable of personalizing the driving experience for every driver, thus making it more enjoyable.
- Convenience. Biometric scanning technology could make the entire driving experience more convenient. Being able to access and start your vehicle by scanning your face, iris or fingerprint would eliminate the need for keys. Thanks to this technology, you may never have to worry about scrambling to find your lost car keys again. Using speech or gesture recognition technologies to interact with your vehicle is also far more convenient than searching for the right button to push or switch to flip. Thus, these technologies can create a more positive user experience for the driver.
- Accident assistance. In the future, your vehicle might be able to help if you are unable to call for emergency assistance after a car accident. Your vehicle may be capable of detecting when you are injured by connecting to your wearable device to access your vitals. This feature could save countless lives.
- Increases fuel economy. Replacing mechanical controls with new technologies that enable car-driver interaction could drastically reduce the weight of the average vehicle. A vehicle’s weight can affect how much fuel it consumes. The less it weighs, the less fuel it will need to operate. Not only will this make the car more energy-efficient, but it will also save you money on gas.
These are some of the many reasons why drivers should get excited about technologies that could potentially change the car-driver interaction.
What Are the Disadvantages of Changing the Car-Driver Interaction?
There’s no doubt that there are benefits to utilizing emerging technologies to change the way drivers interact with their vehicles. However, there are also some drawbacks to changing the car-driver interaction, including:
- Drivers must learn new commands. You will need to make an effort to learn how to communicate with your vehicle once these technologies replace mechanical controls and touchscreens. For instance, you may need to learn specific voice commands or hand gestures to ensure you know how to control every system within your vehicle. Failing to learn these commands could leave you unable to interact with your vehicle at all.
- Technology must be able to correctly identify commands. Speech recognition and gesture recognition technology may not be advanced enough to easily identify a driver’s command. The technology may struggle to determine the difference between a driver who is attempting to issue a command and a driver who is speaking or making hand gestures for an unrelated reason. Furthermore, the technology may not be able to quickly understand what the driver is saying or gesturing, which may lead to confusion and frustration.
- Privacy concerns. Some drivers may not be willing to consent to facial, retina, or fingerprint scans due to concerns over their privacy. They may also fear that someone is listening to their conversations through the use of speech recognition technology. They may not want to provide this personal data to the automotive manufacturer without knowing how it will be protected and where it will be stored.
- Noise concerns. Having to use voice commands to interact with your vehicle may not be ideal for some drivers. For instance, if you have a baby sleeping in the backseat, speaking loudly to your vehicle could disturb them.
- Difficult to repair. Because these technologies are so new, it may be difficult to find a qualified mechanic to perform repairs in the event that something breaks. The mechanics that are capable of performing these repairs may charge more for their services.
These are some of the many challenges that the changes to the way cars and drivers interact could bring. It’s up to automotive manufacturers to either overcome these challenges or ensure that the pros of using the new technologies far outweigh the cons.
What Are Consumers’ Attitudes Towards These Changes?
Automotive manufacturers may start to introduce some of these changes in the next few years. In fact, Ford executives predict that over 90% of new vehicles will be equipped with speech recognition technology by 2022.
It’s clear that these changes are right around the corner, but it’s not clear how automotive consumers will respond to them. Researchers have conducted several studies designed to measure consumers’ attitudes towards these new technologies.
One study found that only 44% of consumers between the ages of 15 and 18 prefer using voice commands over physical inputs to control their devices. These results indicate that young drivers may not want to use their voice to interact with their vehicles.
Another study focused specifically on gauging consumers’ attitudes toward gesture recognition technology. The participants were asked to rank various types of advanced interactive features. Gesture recognition technology was ranked last, which means participants ranked all other advanced interaction features higher than this technology.
Furthermore, 16% of participants tried gesture recognition technology but quickly abandoned it. However, it’s not clear whether they gave up on the technology because it was too difficult to use or because they didn’t like it once they figured it out.
Either way, the results of both of these studies indicate that consumers may not be ready to change the manner in which they interact with their vehicles. There’s no way of knowing whether or not these attitudes will change once consumers are given an opportunity to use the technologies to interact with their vehicles. But one thing is certain: the way consumers drive and communicate with their vehicles will look a lot different in the near future.