You guys know me — I'm an idea man. True, 90% of those 'ideas' involve gyros for lunch, but occasionally something else slips in. And today is one of those times. Today I'm tackling the issue of how to make nav, HVAC, infotainment and other controls available to passengers. I have an idea, and I want to hear what you think.
So here's the basic problem: cars now have more possible controls for the non-driver than ever before. Cars, especially high-end cars, now often include separate climate controls for every passenger, and many offer the ability to (at least partially) control the radio, and others still have full screens for the passengers to watch vintage DVD porn or whatever.
The problems with all these systems, even on very expensive cars, is that they tend to be pretty clunky. There's no established locations for controls in the rear seat, and the front seat passenger usually has to share center console controls with the driver. Even really, really high end cars, like this Rolls here, uses pop-up touch screens that offer a lot of control, including nav system input (I think), but still seem sort of like clunky afterthoughts.
Part of the problem is simple real estate. Without a dashboard in the back, where do you put screens and other controls? Seatbacks and headrests sort of work, but there's always going to be a space limitation there. If only there were some nice, large flat areas that could be repurposed into control areas — why then we'd be set.
Happily, there are those areas. We call them 'windows,' though I have heard car designers call them 'DLO's (day light openings) which is sort of ridiculous. Still, what do you usually do with windows? Look at strip malls and those smug willow trees and faraway mountains and other dipshits in their lesser cars? Most of the time they're up, and largely ignored. They're a perfect slate for passenger-car interaction!
Here's the idea: the window is normally, of course, a window. Open it, close it, look out it, lick it, whatever. But you could activate a transparent LCD built into the window glass that would give passengers total control over everything they'd need.
The basic technology is already here — this isn't some pie-in-the-sky dream with exotic magic, it's relatively new but established engineering. Samsung demoed the technology back in 2012 and some companies are selling these types of window/screens now.
Sure, it'll start out expensive, but that's fine since the initial target market for this would be on high-end limousine-type cars. Think fancy Rollers, Jags, and Bentleys, where the owner is more likely to be in the back than the front. Later on, technology will get cheaper, and it'll filter down to filthy animals like myself, but I can wait.
So, in a car so equipped, the passenger would start the process by simply touching the window, which would activate the display, if not already active. The passenger could then, say, open the nav system and input a destination for the driver to go to (preventing actually having to talk to the driver, like some sort of ape), or they could adjust the temperature, the level of ass-massage in the seat, put on the next chapter from their audiobook of the erotic version of the Left Behind series, or whatever.
When done, they'd just dismiss the controls, or face away from the window (a little camera could be watching, and also used for video conferencing), and the window would return to a normal, transparent state.
Think how slick and elegant this process could be — no more fumbling for fiddly knobs and poorly-lableled buttons, no unfolding cumbersome erector-set flip-out screens, just the controls you need appearing on the window, and disappearing when done. You could play video on the windows, too, and perhaps future upgrades could use cameras to identify the landmarks and objects outside the window itself.
So, what do you think? Picture this in your favorite cars, on the passenger side of an F-Type coupé or on the rear side windows of your favorite cab. Am I an idiot? Is someone already developing this? What could be better? I bet we can come up with something great.