New gadget controls car functions with a nod and a wink

Caroline Cassidy

With most modern cars equipped with Sat Nav, radios and iPod docks, mobile phone kits and a host of other internal controls, it's little wonder drivers can become distracted.

car gadget controls functions with hand gestures
car gadget controls functions with hand gestures

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But thanks to infotainment specialists Harman, motorists could soon control all their car's functions with just a nod and a wink.

The engineers at Harman have invented a gadget that reads the driver's facial expressions and recognises gestures, allowing motorists to stay focused on the road.

This new technology works by way of an infra-red sensor mounted on the dash board, which reads facial expressions and gestures, transmitting them to a computer concealed within the car, which in turn, translates those gestures into commands.

A simple nod (to the left or right), for instance, will turn the stereo volume up or down respectively, a wink will turn the radio on or off, and a tap on the steering wheel will skip to the next track.

Similarly, raising or lowering the hand above the gear stick will control the heating or air conditioning, while the widely-recognised hand signal for 'call me' will connect the driver to their phone, after which they need only say the name of the person they wish to dial.

The makers claim these handy signals will ensure that drivers are able to give the road ahead their full attention.

Hans Roth, director of technology at Harman, told the Daily Mail: "It's all about reducing distractions in the car. If you don't have to take your hands off the wheel or look down then it's obviously safer."

Though the technology is still being tested and currently only exists within a prototype vehicle, Mr Roth claims it won't be long before it will be ready for mass production.

He added: "We are still testing a list of gestures which could be standard for all cars across the world. We've started it and now it's about choosing the right gestures and getting it to production.

"You've got to make sure it's culturally acceptable. In Italy, for example, drivers use hand gestures a lot when they drive so it needs finalising. But we are confident the hand gestures will be available in two or three years."

What do you think? Will 'nod and a wink' car controls keep drivers focused on the road or prove more of a distraction? Leave your comments below...