The future of the car interior is at the precipice of going button-less, according to Volkswagen’s head of development, Heinz-Jakob Neusser.
Speaking with CarAdvice at the recent 2015 Frankfurt motor show, Neusser suggested the German company is on the verge of removing buttons from its production cars, with a focus to making interiors more intuitive.
According to Neusser, that doesn’t mean everything will go the way of Tesla in being controlled via a touchscreen interface. He said there are three main ways that Volkswagen drivers will interact with their cars in the future: touch, voice and gesture.
“It’s done this way so that you can use it in the single best way, intuitively,” Neusser said. “That means there are certain functions that can, very intuitively, easily be controlled by gesture. Opening, closing, wiping and so on, that’s the easiest way to do it. But it’s not the best way [for everything]. If you look, for example, to navigation positioning or something like this, it’s best to have it with voice control.
“There are some certain other things where you can do it in the best way by pushing your fingers on the screen and moving around. So we will have touch, voice control and gesture control combined together and used for each individual control in the most intuitive way,” Neusser explained.
“But to do everything with voice control is too complex because it takes you too much time,” he said.
“The idea is to get the system so used that you get the minimum driver distraction, that’s the problem. And what is quite clear, is the vision is to have a switchless car.”
The German marque showed its intent with the Golf R Touch, a concept car shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year.
That car featured a main 12.8-inch (2560×1700) touchscreen for media and navigation, with a slider bar slotted below that large screen and a secondary 8.0-inch (800×480) touchscreen for climate, ventilation and audio management.
The Golf R Touch also has a gesture sensor mounted in the head-lining in front of the sunroof. That sensor is designed to allow both the driver and front passenger the ability to control certain functions with the wave, twist or turn of a hand. The controls include changing the track that is playing, volume and sunroof control.
It is no surprise, then, that almost all of the standard Golf’s physical switches and dials in that concept, including the electric window switches, were replaced by touch-sensitive elements.
Neusser said the company sees a future where their cars “don’t have any switches or actuators, or reduced extremely” – but he said there is still some call for certain elements to be controlled by knobs or dials.
“For example when I go with a Tiguan off-road, I need this control that it’s quite clear to do when you are going from on-road to off-road, I handle it one time. That’s easy, this is a typical function and this is representative feature for a four-wheel drive system. But all the other things we can introduce into software.”
Neusser said the response to the Golf R Touch at both the Las Vegas and Shanghai CES fairs was positive, on the whole, though he did point out that the “people who are moving to these shows… are really experienced and focused on these systems”.
Tell us what you think – would you like to see cars without buttons?