Technology

Tech Review: Acura’s Precision Cockpit

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Vehicle infotainment systems have been around for a lot longer than people think. Rewind to the 1930’s and you’ll find the first one ever built. It was a Motorola AM radio receiver controlled by a command stick stuck to the dashboard. The thing was so big it needed to be installed in the floor.

We’ve come a long way since then.

These days, infotainment systems are small, precise and involved. They include things like high-tech graphic design, state-of-the-art instrumentation, voice-activated programming and of course, Bluetooth capability.

The best systems are said to mirror the functionality of a person’s smartphone. Send a text, answer a call or select a song with a simple swipe of the finger.

Here’s the thing, though. As these systems advance, they tend to require more involvement from the user. This means drivers aren’t focusing as much on the road as they should be.

And that’s where Acura’s Precision Cockpit comes into play.

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Acura’s Precision Cockpit

Unveiled at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show, Acura’s Precision Cockpit is a complete rethink on the way an infotainment system is supposed to work. With it, Acura’s hoping to shift the driver’s focus back to the road, where it should be.

Featuring a 12.3-inch display screen, the Japanese automakers have parted ways with physical buttons and have instead opted for a touchpad as a way to control the display. By using something called absolute positioning, the touch pad acts symbiotically with the display screen.

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While most entertainment systems make you touch the screen before you’re able to do anything, Acura’s touchpad acts as a mirror for what you want to happen on the screen.

Say you want to select an icon in the top right corner. All you need to do is touch the right side of the pad and the icon in the corresponding spot on the screen will activate. Plus, because the screen is curved, you get a better sense of where your finger is on the pad without ever having to look away from the road.

“As much as people like touch screens in their cars, because of the parallels to tablets and smartphones, it may not be the best strategy for cars,” says Acura product engineer Steven Feit. By using a touchpad, Acura’s eliminated the need for drivers to reach up to a touchscreen, which prevents them from obstructing their view of the road.

“The touchpad makes it easier to control the screen more safely,” Feit says.

Semi-Autonomous Driving

The Precision Cockpit isn’t just a re-haul of the infotainment system either. In addition to the touchpad, Acura wants to change the way you communicate with your car.

For example, features like Emergency Braking or Lane-Keep Assist enable your vehicle to respond to a situation without a prompt from you. So, in essence, your vehicle acts autonomously. This can get confusing, though. Often times a driver can be left in the dark about what the car is doing.

Bu using augmented reality and a series of 3D graphics, Acura’s touchscreen will explain exactly what your car is doing when one of these features is operating. It takes the guesswork out of autonomy.

According to Acura, the new technology will help build humans’ confidence in a vehicle’s automated driving systems.

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While the Precision Cockpit is just in concept form now, Acura has every intention of rolling it into production in the future. The first vehicle to feature the technology will likely be the new NSA.

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