Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Do we need new Car Controls?

If you think about it then what we use today to control a car is pretty much what has been invented hundred years ago. We have a steering wheel, throttle, clutch and brake pedals and some stick to change gears. Most of the millions and millions of cars on earth are built that way. If you compare this with airplanes then there's really very little evolution! Modern (passenger) airplanes are steered with joy sticks, they call this approach fly by wire.

Of course there's a down side when you change the way cars are controlled. People would need to change, to learn to use a different kind of control mechanism. Maybe even standard reflexes wouldn't work any more (like moving your foot from the right throttle pedal to the middle brake pedal when there's some danger). On the other side, our kids grow up with joysticks, gamepads and other pointing devices, but not with steering wheels. Maybe our children would have more control over a car using a device that they know from the Playstation or the Gameboy? Maybe we could even come up with a much more "efficient" car interior design if we hadn't to place this huge steering wheel in front of the driver? Maybe we could even steer the car from both sides of the car, handing over control like in an airplane? Think about this dialogue:
A: Hey I don't know exactly the direction, do you?
B: Yes, I do, why don't you hand over control to me and I drive?
A: Good idea, handing over control ....
Also parking might be much easier (if there's any skill needed for this in the future, thanks to all the electronic gismo in the cars) if you could switch control to the person sitting on the parking spot side. And so on.
From a technical stand point most is prepared for new ways of controlling a car. Drive by wire is almost reality already today, as throttle pedals are not anymore directly connected to the engine, and even the steering is electrical (assisted) today.
So, dear car manufacturers, why not trying to be a bit more innovative and brave? Maybe we would love to change?

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