trw touchpad.automotiveIT

TRW says its touchpad provides a more intuitive way to operate various infotainment controls (Photo: TRW)

TRW, in an attempt to further simplify in-car controls, has developed a capacitive touchpad that recognizes handwriting.

The US-based automotive supplier said the touchpad, which will be ready for production this year, will mark a major improvement in the human machine interface (HMI) because it can be used by car drivers and passengers in a more intuitive manner.

Automakers are looking for new ways to operate a growing number of mostly infotainment-related functions in the car. Many are betting that voice recognition will be the dominant technology, but specialists say complementary interfaces will always be required.

TRW's handwriting-recognition touch pad can be installed as a standalone product or as a multifunction control panel. The user can write individual characters with a single finger on the sensor area. The input is then interpreted by software and acknowledged with an audible feedback.

The touch sensor lets a driver operate applications such as mobile phones, navigation systems and the radio as well as sending messages, from a single point. TRW said the sensor could even replace simple switches within the car.

"TRW research has shown that the use of in-vehicle handwriting recognition operation reduces driving deviations by 78 percent compared with the alphanumeric keyboard method," said Frank Koch, advanced engineering manager for TRW's Body Control Systems

The new touchpad also offers design advantages because of its relatively small packaging, TRW said. The multifunction controller can be located in the center console, the door armrests or elsewhere.