Once upon a time, the white noise from the basic analogue radio was tuned away with often lengthy knob-twiddling. Now we shout at a hidden microphone using voice control, to a service that only seems to half listen.

When we’re not doing that, manufacturers want us gesturing at the display screen, leaving us feeling either very silly or a bit like a superhero.

So what is gesture control and why the heck should we care?

Gesture control has a two-fold effect. Firstly, it’s hoped gesturing will reduce the amount of time we spend with our hands off the wheel while we’re driving. Of course, there are other options, such as physical switchgear on the steering wheel itself, or even voice control.

But these options don’t suit everyone. If, for example, you’re answering a phone call, voice control isn’t ideal, since talking while greeting a caller is confusing. Poking the air assertively is arguably a better solution, provided it works every time.

2017 VW Golf facelift

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The second effect of introducing gesture control is to reduce reducing the number of buttons in the car. This is not necessarily because it’s easier to twirl your finger to turn the volume up than it is to turn a knob—it isn’t—but by removing the array of buttons and knobs in a car, the dashboard becomes a cleaner environment.

Poor interior designs often mean cabins look like the confusing interior of a 747’s cockpit, with more switches than sense. Trying to design around switchgear placement can’t be easy and as cars become more autonomous, designers know the space could be used for something else. 

From digital displays and touchscreens, gesture control seems a natural progression. Hans Roth, senior director of technology marketing at Harman, says: 'Gestures can never replace all the functions of a touchscreen, only a few.

You still need the touchscreen or buttons on a centre stack, because there are many more functions than you will ever be able to control by gesture. Yet, in the future, we’re doing more things with the camera, like eye gaze tracking and face recognition, so there is still much more gesture control to investigate.'

BMW 7 Series

Consider yourself a guinea pig for car makers to determine what works, what is most used, what feels most comfortable…and crucially, what is most cost effective for the consumer. When it comes to gesture control development, watch this space. 

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