BMW is bringing gesture-based car controls to CES 2016

Future BMWs could be controlled using hand gestures
Image Credit: BMW

BMW announced that it will show off a new gesture-based interface at CES 2016 that will allow drivers to control certain features of their vehicle with a simple swipe of their hand.

The technology, dubbed AirTouch, allows functions such as music playback, navigation and phone communication to be controlled with hand gestures.

AirTouch uses a group of sensors located between the car console and interior mirror to ensure hand motions can be read without needing to fumble with a smartphone or a built-in touchscreen, potentially taking a driver's eyes off the road

A special button located on the steering wheel helps speed up inputs when using AirTouch. While one hand makes the gestures to navigate though menus, the other hand confirms selections with the button, ensuring that the "touchless" system works quickly without having to take both hands off the wheel.

"AirTouch allows the display in a vehicle to be operated like a touchscreen without actually having to make contact with the surface," said BMW in an official release. "This allows the driver to focus all their concentration on the road ahead."

No stranger to gesture controls, AirTouch greatly expands on BMW's announcement at last year's CES, where the company showed off simpler, finger-based gestures for commands such as changing volume and taking calls.

While the finger-based control scheme ultimately became a feature on the BMW 7 Series, BMW claims that AirTouch takes "another big leap forward" by offering 3D controls and a wide, panoramic display.

While it remains to be seen exactly how AirTouch will work in practice, we can't wait for the big show in Las Vegas to get here so we can get behind the wheel and pretend to be in Minority Report.

Parker Wilhelm
Parker Wilhelm is a freelance writer for TechRadar. He likes to tinker in Photoshop and talk people's ears off about Persona 4.