Continental swipe and hand gesture steering wheel-01

Continental is currently developing a special steering wheel that supports swipes and hand gestures. Said steering wheel comprises two clear paddle-shift-like panels that are compatible with any control geometry and a “time-of-flight” sensor in the instrument cluster that detects hand motions.

There are no electronic components on the two transparent plastic panels. Drivers can swipe left or right with just their thumbs and confirm by tapping, almost like a touchpad. Obviously, this would allow drivers to navigate through sub-menus of the vehicle or apps. According to the company, the variable complexity ensures that the system can be integrated into different vehicle classes and not just in luxury segments.

As for gesture controls, the time-of-flight sensor consists of a 3D camera system and a 3D image sensor, which convert the infrared signal detected by said sensor into a 3D image. Here, the driver can just flick his fingers up or down, while keeping his hands on the steering wheel, to perform actions such as accepting or rejecting calls, among other possible actions.

Four hand gestures can be detected at the moment, these include setting the navigation, browsing through apps and starting music, answering calls and controlling the on-board computer. Initial reactions by test users proved positive as they welcomed the swipe and gesture controls and the intuitive learnability of the gestures, Continental stated.

“The development of a holistic human-machine interface is crucial for further strengthening the driver’s confidence in their vehicle. Building up this confidence, combined with an intuitive dialog between driver and vehicle is yet another important step on the road to automated driving, one that we are supporting with gesture-based control on the steering wheel,” said Ralf Lenninger, head of strategy, system development, and innovation in Continental’s interior division.

“With gestures in a clearly defined area on the steering wheel, we can minimize distraction and increase safety. This narrowing down also prevents the driver from unintentionally starting gesture-based control by means of their usual everyday gestures, and thus making unwanted selections,” Lenninger added.