Future Driving: Controlling a Car with a Wave of the Hand?
30 November 2012 - Wall Street Journal
Toyota Motor Co. is researching new ways to revolutionize the act of driving, and some start with a simple wave of the hand.
Jim Lentz, head of Toyota’s U.S. division, said today the company is working on new hand motion technology that will allow drivers to control certain car functions, such as turning up the radio volume.
For now, the research is mostly being done on a skateboard — yes, a skateboard — developed by Toyota’s “Board of Awesomeness” research team and in partnership with Microsoft Corp., Mr. Lentz said, speaking at the LA Auto Show this morning.
The electric skateboard runs on hand gestures. In raising and lowering the hand, a rider can control the throttle, making the board go faster or slower.
But that technology could have in-car applications, especially those that will help limit distracted driving by keeping a driver’s eyes on the road, Mr. Lentz said.
“We believe the driver must always be engaged,” he added. “It’s really, really critical as auto manufacturers, all these new technologies that we put in cars will lead to less distracted driving.”
Also, under development by Toyota, is a prototype called the Smart Insect that has on-board motion sensors. The car recognizes the owner’s face and body and tries to predict behavior by analyzing the driver’s movement. It also uses voice recognition to open doors and perform other functions.
Mr. Lentz described the Smart Insect as “our version of Herbie the Lovebug, but highly updated and tricked out.”