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'Touchless' touchscreens could be coming to a car near you soon

Jaguar Land Rover Predictive Touch
(Image credit: Jaguar Land Rover)

Touchscreens are becoming common place in new cars, as auto manufacturers shift from traditional physical dials and buttons to a more 21st century way of controlling the various aspects of your vehicle.

However, a new technology developed by Jaguar Land Rover and the University of Cambridge may mean physically touching a display could become a thing of the past.

Named 'predictive touch', the technology allows for contactless interaction with a vehicle's touchscreen, as a series of sensors and artificial intelligence will predict your hand movements towards the display.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) claims that 'predictive touch' can reduce touchscreen use by up to 50%, keep the driver's eyes on the road for longer, and reduce the spreed of bacteria and viruses.

Just how well this technology works remains to be seen, as we've seen similar technology appear in smartphones over the years with varying degrees of success, but none of them proved more effective than physically touching the display.

It's currently not clear when this technology could make its way into vehicles, but JLR says it "can be seamlessly integrated into existing touchscreens and interactive displays, so long as the correct sensory data is available to support the machine learning algorithm."

This means predictive touch could well be an over-the-air update for some vehicles, and we've asked the firm whether any of its current fleet are compatible with the tech. We'll update this article once we hear back.

Contactless control already exists

This isn't the first time we've seen contactless technology make its way into our cars. 

Gesture control has been around for a few years now in premium models – it's available in a range of BMWs, for example – allowing you to perform commands such as controlling the volume and skipping tracks using certain hand movements in front of the center console.

Something else which has become more prevalent in vehicles over recent years is voice control – allowing you to make phones calls by speaking to your car, and in more advanced offerings providing you with granular control over functions such as navigation.

Predictive touch is the next in what is likely to be a long line of futuristic control methods for our vehicles, as the in-car experience becomes more technologically advanced.

John McCann

Global Managing Editor

John got his first phone aged 12 and since then he's been fixated on all things mobile. Previously Phones Editor, John now looks after the day-to-day running of the site. When he's not got his head buried in mobile tech, you'll find John sitting behind the wheel in his regular TR Drives column.