How touch screen controls in cars should really work


Several automotive companies have begun replacing traditional controls in their cars with touch screens. Unfortunately, their eagerness to set new trends in hardware, is not matched by their ambition to create innovative software experiences for these new input mechanisms. Instead of embracing new constraints and opportunities, they merely replicate old button layouts and shapes on these new, flat, glowing surfaces.

So even controls for air condition and infotainment - which are commonly used while driving - now lack any tactile feedback and require the driver’s dexterity and attention when operated. Considering that distracted driving is the number one cause for car accidents, this is not a step in the right direction.


I propose a new mode that can be invoked at any time: It clears the entire screen of those tiny, intangible control elements and makes way for big, forgiving gestures that can be performed anywhere. In place of the lost tactile feedback, the interface leverages the driver’s muscle memory to ensure their ability to control crucial features without taking their eyes off the road. 

Your touch will never be off: As your fingers touch the screen, the desired control moves in place to always be at your fingertips.

One simple gesture: Dragging up or down is how adjustments are made to the selected setting.

Muscle memory instead of high accuracy: By touching the screen with different numbers of fingers, different controls are invoked.

The interface reacts not only to the number of fingers, but also to their distance from each other. E.g. two fingers can be placed close together or further apart to trigger two different modes. The interface will react accordingly and select the appropriate control.

This way, anything from the temperature in the car to the next song on a playlist can be selected by a simple swipe with one hand.

The interface adjusts with the sensitivity of each control. Some settings react to very small movements (e.g. volume). Others require bigger movements for more accuracy (e.g. music source).

In total, this interface gives distraction free access to eight controls that can be customized based on the driver’s preferences.

Watch the video of the interface in action, or try the prototype on your tablet (so far only tested on iPads).