Steering wheels? Passe. Pedals? Outdated. Signaling? Well, nobody does that now, so we probably can’t expect much of it in the future, either. Here’s the future of steering your car, and it may be a lot closer than you think.
With Your Tweets
Everything is connected to social networking these days: witness the Chevy Cruze offering up Facebook updates while you drive. But Mercedes Benz is taking it to a whole new level by actually controlling a car with Tweets.
Yep, this is 100% legit: Mercedes, as part of their ongoing technological effort, used Twitter to promote their “Tweet Race.” The idea is that instead of giving you a keyfob that controls your car, or even forcing you to download an app, you can use simple text messages or web commands to turn on your car, unlock it, and so on.
If that sounds a bit “downmarket” for the luxury brand, remember that it’s not just Mercedes; it’s Smart, Freightliner, various bus brands, and other industrial vehicle outfits that could simply hand their employees a cheap cellphone (which could easily be tracked) instead of a key fob (which can’t). This will be a small consolation when the driver mistweets and the bus blows through a red light, but still.
With Your Voice
Any fan of Star Trek remembers that in the twenty-fourth century, everything is controlled by voice commands, which must make showering incredibly awkward. Fortunately, Ford engineers have seen the same TV shows, and have already made a voice-controlled vehicle. Sort of.
The Ford Focus has a new technology called “MyFord Touch,” which allows the driver to thumb a button, state a command, and then, say, ask the car to turn up the air conditioning, find a specific song, or receive text messages. Dangerously, it also serves as a Wi-Fi hotspot, which we’re pretty sure is going to have to be shut off while driving, just to keep some jerk from tailgating you to surf the Web.
With Your Very Mind
Remember that Clint Eastwood movie Firefox? The one where Clint Eastwood steals a web browser, er, an advanced Russian fighter jet? Where he has to think in Russian to control it?
Well, some academics in Germany really loved that movie, because they did it with a car.
OK, so their mind-controlled car doesn’t have any weapons (yet). It does have a wide array of sensors to give the car an awareness of its environment in 3D, which essentially turns the car into a robot: it can even automatically drive itself for short distances.
The idea is, wearing a specialized piece of headgear, you give the car commands like “left,” “right,” and “that old lady is worth fifty points,” and the car takes care of the rest. Yes, soon, you might simply be giving your car directions, as it takes care of everything else.
Of course, it still can’t parallel park. Some things, even a machine can’t do.