Continental brings gesture control to the steering wheel

In a move to offload drivers and by providing a holistic human-machine interface, automotive supplier Continental integrates gesture control into the steering wheel. This technique, hitherto restricted to infotainment systems, will now be transferred to steering wheel.

The central element of steering wheel based gesture control is a time-of-flight sensor built into the instrument cluster. The integration of this sensor into the unusual position in the instrument cluster enables a solution that minimizes driver distraction and paves the way for further improvements on the way to a holistic HMI, Continental argues. The time-of-flight sensor detects the motion of the hand and converts it into actions. The driver can navigate through the menus by swiping up and down, and confirm the selection with a brief tapping motion. Touch-free operation is also possible for other functions. For example, if the driver moves his fingers up and down in a uniform movement while keeping his hands on the steering wheel, he can accept calls or reject them. A gesture is typically a movement linked to a specific property. Thanks to the time-of-flight sensor integrated in the instrument cluster, this development has a high rate of gesture recognition. The sensor comprises a 3D camera system with an integrated 3D image sensor and converts the infrared signal detected by the sensor into a 3D image. Consequently, the hand positions and gestures of the driver are detected with millimeter precision and converted to actions.


While with existing solutions the drivers frequently had to take their hands off the wheel or the eyes from the road ahead, the new action radius with the new solution is much more focused. "With gestures in a clearly defined area on the steering wheel, we can minimize distraction and increase safety. This narrowing down also prevents the driver from unintentionally starting gesture-based control by means of their usual everyday gestures, and thus making unwanted selections," declares Ralf Lenninger, head of Strategy, System Development, and Innovation in Continental's Interior division.


The system can currently detect four different gestures: setting the navigation, browsing through apps and starting music, answering calls, and controlling the on-board computer. Initial reactions of