TRW says touch-pad sensor reads letters, reduces distraction
DETROIT -- Supplier TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. has unveiled an in-vehicle touch-pad sensor that reads finger-drawn letters and numbers, enabling occupants to operate accessories and devices with less distraction, the company says.
The sensor will be ready for production this fall, TRW said. No production contracts have been announced, but spokesman John Wilkerson said the supplier has received “definite customer interest” in Europe, where the technology was mainly developed.
The sensor uses advanced handwriting recognition software to interpret numbers, letters and symbols, then initiates commands. An “A” written on the touch pad, for instance, could switch operations over to audio controls, Wilkerson said in an interview this week.
TRW said using a touch-pad sensor instead of keyboardlike input reduces driving deviations by 78 percent.
Automakers would decide where to place the sensor, but TRW said its tests have shown that the best location is in the center console or the door armrests.
Frank Koch, advanced engineering manager for TRW’s Body Control Systems, said the sensor is the first to recognize symbols such as Chinese characters without the need of transcription aids.
“The touch-pad technology has huge potential for global vehicle markets,” Koch said in a statement.
It also enables the driver to operate applications such as mobile phones, navigation systems and the radio, as well as send messages from the touch pad, TRW said.
Wilkerson said automakers would determine many of the sensor’s functions, such as how it interacts with external devices.
“The touch pad is an interface to the vehicle” he said. “It can take you to things but it’s not part of the connection between the phone and the car.”
Wilkerson used a phone’s Pandora Internet radio app as an example. By writing the letter “P” on the touch pad, he said, the user can access the application faster than fumbling with multiple devices.
Said Wilkerson: “It’s meant to be as simplistic as possible.”