At CES this week, BMW showed off a couple near-future technologies that'll be available on cars in the next few years. The first doesn't really sound futuristic at all — it's just a generic Samsung tablet, but the magic is in how tightly BMW's managed to integrate it with the car's systems. The "Touch Command" system includes the small Android tablet and a dock in the rear seat, allowing rear passengers to change climate settings, switch radio stations, adjust their seats, and more — in other words, it's basically a portable iDrive controller for when you're getting chauffeured around.
None of this is coming for a year or two
The most interesting thing about it is that the tablet is customized by Samsung for BMW: pressing the home button doesn't kick you out to the home screen on a normal Android device, it returns you to Touch Command's main screen. If you want to use the tablet simply as an Android tablet — which you can do — you need to choose the "Apps" option inside Touch Command to get kicked out to a launcher. BMW says it hasn't settled on a tablet model or size yet for when Touch Command reaches production, but it'll take a year or two anyway.
Next — and far more interesting to drivers — is a revamped iDrive system that supports touchscreen and gesture control. The touchscreen aspect isn't a big deal (many cars have them), but the gestures are awesome. Using a camera mounted in the car's roof, it looks for one of several gestures made by the driver's right hand like a swipe, a circular motion, or a two-fingered poke in the direction of the screen. All of them can be programmed to one of several functions — for instance, the circular motion can turn volume up and down, and a swipe can reject an incoming call. It's similar to the system Volkswagen showed yesterday on its Golf R Touch, and it seems to be indicative of a new trend in car interfaces — expect to see a lot more of this over the coming years.