BMW debuts AirTouch concept, turning car interior into contactless touchscreen

With CES 2016 rapidly approaching next week, BMW has gotten a jump on things and announced it will be showing off an advanced version of the gesture control tech demo it had last year. Dubbed AirTouch, the system basically turns the car's interior into a touchscreen, but one that doesn't need physical contact thanks to gesture-reading sensors. It's described as allowing control over many more functions than the current iteration available in BMW's 7 Series, which can only handle simple tasks like adjusting the volume.

AirTouch will allow either the driver or passenger to use the system, simply by making gestures with an outstretched hand. A large display inside the car shows what's being navigated or highlighted, while selections are made with a physical button on either the steering wheel or the passenger-side door.

As for what can be controlled with the AirTouch system, BMW says it can be used to handle common infotainment tasks, including navigation, entertainment, and communication functions. The company also explains that the menu system has been designed to reduce the number of steps whenever possible. For example, selecting the phone function will automatically bring up a list of contacts so only one additional selection is needed to place a call.

From the descriptions, it honestly sounds like AirTouch is primed to increase driver distraction, not reduce it, but seeing it in action on the CES floor might change that perception. Either way, the tech is likely to be at least a few years off before appearing in BMW's vehicles, and by then we might all be riding in self-driving cars, so distraction won't be an issue.