November 8, 2013

Sometime in the near future, we human beings will no longer be required (nor even allowed, on safety grounds) to drive our own cars. Robots will drive them for us. When not controlling the direction and velocity of our personal transportation units, these clever little androids will be taking care of other chores such as cooking, cleaning, booking holidays, pet care, and so on, as well, of course, as tending to our increasingly depraved and extravagant erotic needs.

In the meantime humans may still be permitted to dabble in the unholy metal-flesh-tarmac roulette of motor transport, but will be encouraged to do so in some increasingly automated and technologically intermediated ways.

Why, this very week some bird in California declared her intention of fighting a fine imposed by Francis ‘Frank’ ‘Ponch’ Poncherello or some other strangely overinflated enforcer of law on the roads of the Grape State. The fine in question related to her use, whilst at the wheel, of an augmented reality device called Google Glass.

Now, like any other self-respecting person, Bankstone News derives its reality augmentation/amelioration via an entirely different type of glass, specifically the kind found at the bottom of a pint of Old Cock Strangler down the Badgers of a Friday night (or, for that matter, pretty much any other night of week you may care to mention). But in the Golden West they do things differently.

The woman in question claimed that driving with Google Glass is safer than using conventional sat-nav devices or regular spectacles as you can access all sorts of information without ever glancing down or taking your eyes off the road. And in any case they weren’t switched on, she added defiantly. Judgement pends.

Also this week an iPhone/iPod app (Hudway) was launched by a firm in Russia that will presumably allow its creators to harvest all your personal data and a complete record of where and when you’ve been in return for projecting augmented reality driving information on to a perfectly ordinary windscreen before your very eyes. Affordable genius/magic type stuff, really. But this is merely scratching the surface.

If you want to make a real difference to the troublesome old fashioned interface between man and driving machine, you might do well to take a page out of another book in the process of co-authorship by Google, along with motor manufacturer Ford.

Why allow drivers to spend hours searching around for and then pressing lots of fiddly little buttons on their dashboards, when they could simply memorise a couple of hundred simple hand gestures and perform these when they want to, for instance, activate air con, wipers, sunroof, or windows?

Patents currently being sought by Google and Fnord include raising or lowering electric windows with a simple up or down swipe of the hand (remembering, of course, to keep your hand in the desired position, if you don’t want the bloomin’ thing going up and down like a yo-yo).

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, a ‘twisting hand motion’ would ‘turn on air conditioning or or indicators. Sounds a little bit random, but it might be fun trying to guess which one you’d get. Want your sun roof open? Simply point at it! Best to avoid listening to anything too rave-y when it’s raining, though.

Other gestures might include:

Bring outstretched fingers and thumb together repeatedly – activate hands free phone

Point repeatedly at open mouth – request directions to the nearest food outlet

Insert index finger in nose – activate cabin illumination

Make a fist and shake vigorously – sound horn

Rapidly raise and lower hand several times as if along an imaginary pole – flash headlights

Bring flattened hands together pointing upwards – activate emergency autopilot

Better still, Japanese motor manufacturer Toyota plans to do away with the hopelessly outdated steering wheel interface altogether and get drivers to stand up and control their vehicles by leaning from side to side. What could be more logical and intuitive. According to a report from the BBC, Toyota describe the aim of their latest concept as to develop a sense of trust and understanding between driver and vehicle “similar to those a rider will have with a horse”.

Presumably adaptor kits will be available for users of Zimmer frames and wheel chairs. And if you’re worried about your legs getting a bit tired somewhere between Bradford and Bognor, don’t be! Simply get your droid to drive.

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