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.
Unfortunately, Nancy, I don't think this trend can be turned around. Consider the National Transportation Safety Board's declaration in 2011 that it wanted to outlaw phones and other electronic distractions in the vehicle. The result in the popular media -- radio shows, newspaper columns -- bordered on revolt. People aren't about to give up their phones. I agree with you that it would make drivers better if we forced them to stow their mobile phones in the trunk while driving (so they could use them in emergencies), but it's just not going to happen. That's why automakers are spending millions of dollars developing less distracting ways to use these new technologies. They're resigned to the fact that they aren't going to eliminate the distraction; they can only make it less so.
Here's a thought...let's focus on DRIVING when we are in the car driving. Why do we feel like we have to constantly be connected or entertained?
This said from just coming in from driving behind a car that was randomly braking in front of us in free flowing traffic. We pull up beside her to go around and guess what she was doing...you already know the answer -
How many fatalities is it going to take to reverse this trend?
I agree with you, notarboca. Scripting could definitely be a driver distraction. There are two types of distractions -- visual and cognitive. This is not a visual distraction, but it is certainly a cognitive distraction.
I agree, and the reverse interaction would have to be by "voice", since you wouldn't want the driver taking their eyes off the road.
The interaction might go something like this:
Car (confirming recognition): Radio
I fear that the users would have to be trained on this method of interaction before it could be installed/enabled in their car. I think that blindly drawing the letters with your finger would be distracting, until you got good enough at it to do it without thinking. Don't get me wrong, I don't think it would take very long. But I think it would definitely be a hazard until the user acheived proficiency.
More often than not, with the purchase of a sports car comes the sacrifice of any sort of utility. In other words, you can forget about a large trunk, extra seats for the kids, and more importantly driving in snowy (or inclement) weather. But what if there was a vehicle that offered the best of both worlds; great handling and practicality?
Science fiction author Isaac Asimov may have the best rules for effective brainstorming and creativity. His never-before-published essay, "On Creativity," recently made it to the Web pages of MIT Technology Review.
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