Volkswagen Magazine

Golf

Encounter with
the touchable.

With the Golf R Touch, Volkswagen is not only bringing the computer and car closer together, but is also paving the way to the automotive future with gesture control. A test-sit with development engineer Moritz Neugebauer.

Text Ina Brzoska
Photos Victor Jon Goico
Film Volkswagen

»People love to trigger a reaction with a gesture.«

Moritz Neugebauer, development engineer

Large display

Bigger, clearer, more colourful: In the Golf R Touch, the high-resolution, brilliant display is a real highlight. Drivers can display all available content here – from settings in the vehicle to navigation, telephone and the songs in their music collections. The ingenious trick: a proximity sensor recognises gestures that the driver performs in front of the display. A swipe from right to left, for example, controls the music selection. The large, 32.5-centimetre (12.8") display is almost as large as an iPad Pro, and its user interface can be set up just as individually. The driver decides what the background looks like, whether the music playlist or the weather is displayed. If so desired, you can display your own car with all its facets and operate everything by gesture.

Light

In the Golf R Touch, there are no more conventional light switches. Instead, proximity sensors recognise the gestures of the driver. If a hand swipes upwards in front of the sensor (see the round surface in the image), the light goes on. A downward swipe turns the light off. Touching the sensor button calls up settings on the large display for fine tuning.

Sunroof

The button for the sunroof is also gone. By moving his hand backwards, development engineer Moritz Neugebauer opens it without a touch. With a sweeping motion towards the windscreen, he shuts it again. And what applied to the settings for the windows and lights applies to the sunroof as well. A brief touch of the sensor surface, and additional options appear on the touchscreen for fine tuning.

Windows

The windows are just as easy to control with gestures. Here too, a simple tap of the round, shiny sensor button calls up a detailed selection menu (expert operation) on the large display.

Control Center

The Control Center located in the lower section of the centre console is a more strictly functional unit with 20-centimetre (8”) display and a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. This is used to control vehicle, air-conditioning and media library functions. Both touch and gesture control are possible here. A camera in the roof module recognises the movements of fingers as soon as they approach the display.

Camera

The intelligent camera is located in the roof module and can be activated by holding one's hand in front of the display for a moment. It can precisely recognize which gestures the driver is performing in front of the display.

Seats

Controls on seats are often difficult to locate, which can compromise attentiveness when driving. In the Golf R Touch, that problem is solved: behind shiny surfaces there are sensors that recognise hands as soon as they move in that direction. After tapping the surface, various seat configurations that the driver can select appear on the big display.

Buttons

The buttons on the steering wheel in the Golf R Touch are seamless. They give the driver a new form of tactile feedback. If the driver places a finger on the button, it gently rebounds – a bit like with a mouseclick.

The three-finger principle

Adios control dial, hello multi-touch slider. A Piano Finish Black bar beneath the large display introduces a completely new and delightfully simple control element. In the middle of the bar there is a thin groove that eases the finger along the bar and simplifies operation.

1 finger

The driver controls the audio volume with the pointer finger.

2 fingers

This is how the driver selects the perfect tone for the navigation system.

3 fingers

If the driver places three fingers in the multitouch slider, that controls the telephone volume.

»Some things are much easier to control by gesture.«

Development engineer Moritz Neugebauer is working on the cockpit of the future. In his five-person team, the focus is primarily on the control logic in the car, i.e. the interaction of functions, switches and displays. The number-one objective: to provide the driver with an even safer and more pleasurable driving experience.

Mr Neugebauer, in the Golf R Touch many functions can be operated not only on the screen, but also using gestures. Where does this swiping trend come from?
From the consumer electronics industry. Games consoles have led the way in using gesture control, and other consoles have followed their example. People love to trigger a reaction with a gesture or hand signal. We've taken on that enthusiasm and transferred it to the Golf R Touch. With a simple gesture I can set the light, adjust the mirror or open the sunroof. Important everyday functions can be operated using different gestures and touchscreens.
 
Will buttons completely disappear from cars in the future?

No, absolutely not. But we've noticed that there is a limit on how many buttons there should be in a car. They have to be easily reachable and easy to operate; a car cannot become like an airplane cockpit – that would distract the driver too much from the traffic situation.

So what are the gestures for?
Our studies have shown that some functions are much easier to operate with gestures than with buttons. Consider this: you're driving on a rural road and a song comes on that you don't like. Today, you would have to look away from the road and find the right button. With gesture control, your eyes stay on the road and you can move on to the next song with a simple swipe of the hand. It's that easy.

And what happens if I want to fine-tune particular settings for the lights or side mirrors, for example?
Then I just tap the round, shiny sensor surface and the functions appear on the large centre display. You can fine-tune all the settings there.

When does it make sense to replace a button with a gesture?
At the moment, we don't view that as a good idea. Volkswagen will offer its customers various control options such as buttons and gestures. A driver may not be physically capable of performing a gesture, for example. We have to take things like that into account. But most people will quickly warm to the advantages of gesture control – I'm absolutely convinced!