Garmin's Multi-Sensor Controller Concept Could Reduce Driver Distraction

Today's drivers want their cars to be as connected as they are. But giving drivers access to their smartphones, apps and the web from behind the wheel can lead to unnecessary distractions.

Garmin, however, thinks they've figured out a way to give drivers what they want without adding to driver distraction. The company today announced its new multi-sensor controller concept for use with vehicle's infotainment systems.

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The controller concept consists of a controller knob with built-in infrared proximity sensors, a touchpad and menu buttons that Garmin says will allow drivers to control their vehicles' infotainment systems without having to look away from the road.

The controller system ties into an infotainment display that Garmin has pushed up higher on the dashboard, to keep drivers from having to look away from the road. While driving, the display only provides users with the important information including maps, directions and radio stations.

But when you bring your hand close to the controller knob, its proximity sensors will detect your presence and automatically bring up an previously hidden options menu on the system's display. Four buttons, which also include proximity sensors, surround the controller knob and allow you to switch between various menus.

Garmin didn't mention any specific use for the system's included touchpad, although Audi has been using a similar setup in its MMI telematics system.

This isn't the first time proximity sensing technology has been used as a way to hide unnecessary menus in a vehicle's telematics system. Cadillac's new CUE system features proximity sensors in its 8-inch capacitive touch screen that automatically bring up additional menus and options when you move your hand close to the display.

While Garmin's system is still in its concept stages, and still lacks an official name, we're looking forward to seeing it in action.