To be sure, TRW's system is not the first script-recognition device for automobiles. Audi already has similar systems in production, and other manufacturers are said to be working on the technology.
But by employing a less complex sensor array, TRW hopes that it can make its system appeal to manufacturers of entry- and mid-level vehicles. The company contends its technology is less costly than traditional indium-tin oxide (ITO) capacitive arrays and, therefore, would enable automakers to uses simple 8-bit and 16-bit MCUs to control it, instead of complex application specific integrated circuits (ASICs). TRW representatives would not say how large the cost reduction for automakers might be.
Studies performed by TRW reportedly suggest that the technology could reduce driver distraction by as much as 78 percent compared to the use of alpha-numeric keyboards. That would be a major step forward for automakers, many of whom are searching for new ways to deal with the myriad distractions in today's vehicles. In December, the National Transportation Safety Board called for the "first-ever nationwide ban on portable electronic devices" in vehicles, saying that driver distraction accounts for about 3,000 fatalities per year.
TRW's technology is likely to compete not only with other script recognition systems, but with voice recognition systems, as well. Today, many vehicles use voice commands to access dashboard features. TRW representatives said they see their technology as a step up from voice recognition.
"In a number of situations, touchpad controls can be better than voice commands as you do not have the issues of a noisy cabin or road environment that could obscure or cause the commands to be misinterpreted," TRW spokesman John Wilkerson wrote in an email to Design News.
TRW said it doesn't yet know when the technology will reach a production vehicle, but added that it is "working on capacitive sensing projects with automakers."
For a close-up look at GM's Chevy Volt, go to the Drive for Innovation site and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director, Brian Fuller.
I definitely agree, Nancy. I actually agree with NTSB, too. I would prefer to see a law that says you have to stow your phone while driving. People won't stop that behavior unless there's a more powerful motivation to do so.
I find touchpads easier, but it does require one hand and both eyes. Until we can keep one eye on the touchpad while keeping the other on the road, the touchpad will mean that the driver is looking away from the road. It only takes a couple seconds in inattention to get into trouble.
Voice Recognition software has come along way since it introduction in the late 80's early 90's. My 12 year old son was able to train the Dragon Speech software on my wife's Window 7 computer in less than 20 minutes. Now he's able to write his school papers by speaking instead of typing. If this software or something similar was used in vechicles as to a touchpad, then texting while driving would be less of a distraction. Also, operating infotainment systems in vehicles become hands-free like the Ford "Sync" technology because of voice recognition instead of interacting with a touchpad. Even with simple scripting commands on a touchpad provides a safety concern while driving because both hands and eyes are not on the road.
That is a good point about over-regulation, Charles - sounds silly, doesn't it? But if the horse spooks and I fly off, I am hurting myself - not other riders. I could even drink and ride without putting others at risk. Just wish people would use common sense...driving a vehicle at high speeds while distracted by any means could end in tragedy for more than just the driver.
I understand now why my parents always said "it's not like the good old days." Boy, do I feel old. My horse is my alternate means of transportation but that is purely recreational. It's funny though - I ride to get away from everything and while I am grateful I have my cell phone in my pocket in case of an emergency, the last thing I want to do is actually have to use the thing. I'll see riders going along with their wireless headset chatting away on a cell call. If there horse spooks they could land in the dirt - and some horses will spook when they hear a ringtone. I actually spent some time desensitizing my horse to a cell phone ringing. Technology distractions are dangerous even on horseback!
A new service lets engineers and orthopedic surgeons design and 3D print highly accurate, patient-specific, orthopedic medical implants made of metal -- without owning a 3D printer. Using free, downloadable software, users can import ASCII and binary .STL files, design the implant, and send an encrypted design file to a third-party manufacturer.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.