From microcars to high-end speedsters, future cars will share one common theme — controls through touch screens rather than buttons, if the concepts of last week's Geneva Motor Show are any indication.
So how do you control a car with no buttons? If you ask us, the only inputs you really need are the steering wheel, gearstick and pedals. Be that as it may, find out how auto designers think our future cars should be controlled in the gallery above.
Model: Range Rover Evoque
Status: Going into production this year
Controls: Auto designers have finally learned the gospel according to Steve Jobs: Buttons are ugly. The Evoque sports an 8-inch "dual-view" screen — able to show different images to the driver and passenger — but the field of buttons surrounding it look dated even though the car has yet to go into production.
Model: Volkswagen Bulli
Status: Concept, possible for production
Controls: By switching more functions behind touch screens, auto designers can eliminate the swatches of switches that have overtaken many vehicles. In the VW Bulli, a rework of the classic VW Microbus concept, designers have gone for this season's streamlined default: Simply build an iPad dock into the dash, and let apps handle all the entertaining, navigation and climate control duties. Also
Model: Nissan Esflow
Status: Concept, slight chance of production version
Controls:Most automakers also want to make connections with smartphones an automatic function, as the Nissan Esflow electric concept does.
Model: Infiniti Etherea
Status: Concept only, hinting at future production models
Controls: Small touch screens are already standard in many everyday cars, so setting a higher standard for luxury models becomes tougher. The Etherea sports two screens; one touch-sensitive down low for controls, the other on top of the dash simply as a display.
Model: BMW Vision ConnectedDrive
Controls:Taken to the logical point, the question becomes why need a screen at all? In the BMW Vision ConnectedDrive, the entire passenger-side dashboard is a touch-sensitive control, which in theory would operate an augmented reality navigation system that could tell you the name of the song playing at the cafe you just passed, or from the car bouncing at the 7-11.
Model: Mini Rocketman
Status: Concept, likely to go into production
Controls: Even for those automakers who stick with buttons for controls, screens will still be the center of focus. The globe in the center of the Rocketman's dash is a 3-D display for driving info and entertainment, which are controlled from the button and trackball on the steering wheel.
Model: Rinspeed BamBoo
Status: Concept, thank heavens.
Controls:Automakers tend to lag behind in new entertainment technology by a couple of years at a minimum, due to the lag times for designing new models and ensuring what they build is reliable enough for years of service. It's also why automakers don't let gadget builders in the design studio without supervision, as HTC and Harman did in the RinSpeed BamBoo concept.
Model: Tata Nano Pixel
Status: Production in 2012
Controls: While most of the more complex touch controls are destined for luxury vehicles, even the world's cheapest models such as the Tata Nana Pixel will rely on fingertip guidance in the future — by just providing a dock for the owner's phone.
Model: Saab PhoeniX
Status: Production in 2013
Controls: While the exterior of the Saab PhoeniX is a flight of fancy, the interior, and specifically, the iQon infotainment system represents the future of Saab infotainment options. And by options we mean the next 9-3, expected to drop in 2013, will feature not a single button on the center console. iQon's a big part of that.