Published: 12 Nov 2013

Driverless cars have been the big talking point in the motoring world this year. While Ford is realistic enough to admit that the concept of having your car drive you around is still a long way from becoming a reality, the company has been adopting a hands-off approach to vehicle control in showing off its ‘Fully Assisted Parking Aid’ and ‘Obstacle Avoidance’ technologies recently. However, hands-free driving is not the only thing on the agenda at Ford, as it has been revealed that the manufacturer is developing a range of in-car functions that can be controlled using different hand gestures.

A wave of the hand and a click of the finger

If you are a bit fed up with the hassle of pushing a button to open and close your windows, and pushing a lever to switch on the wipers has become a little tedious, Ford’s new technology is definitely going to be for you. According to a report in the Telegraph, both Ford and tech-giant Google have published patent applications that show their intentions to let drivers use gestures to control specific functions.

The paper notes that such gestures could include a swipe of the hand to lower and raise a window and a click of the fingers around the steering wheel to turn on the windscreen wipers or indicators.

Drivers could also benefits from switching on the air conditioning and operating the stereo with a turn of the hand, and opening the sunroof simply by imitating a pulling gesture.

In-car cameras

Ford’s patent describes how the technology would rely upon the use of in-car cameras, which will be able to obtain information about the attentiveness of the driver and determine whether commands were intended.

In the Telegraph report, an image from the patent shows how twisting fingers in the air would be used to turn the air conditioning up or down. Drivers will be able to confirm their gesture by giving a thumbs up or thumbs down.

The report also says that gesture controls could be used to check if a driver is paying attention to the road and could be used to recognise the owner, as well.

“On recognition, a set of personalised functions corresponding to the person are reset to a set of pre-stored settings,” said the Ford patent. “For example the temperature of the interiors can be automatically set up or the driver side window may half open automatically when the person occupies the seat.”

While the technology would require drivers to learn a new Ford-created sign language, it is certainly an exciting proposition and is fitting of the path motoring manufacturing is taking in automating the driving experience. 

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