As car makers look for ways to replace unsightly buttons or add more controls without crowding the center stack, researchers are turning to smart fabric.
The driver's seat has always been synonymous with total control, and that could become even more true as manufacturers begin embedding controls into its fabric. Researchers at the Polytechnic School in Montreal, Canada, have developed a soft polymer-based fiber with electrical properties that can be woven into fabric, according to an article in New Scientist.
Smart fabrics are becoming more mainstream, and touch sensitive fabric isn't new. But creating a durable fabric that can control a range of functions and differentiate tactile motions is a breakthrough technology developed by professor Maksim Skorobogatiy and his team of researchers at the university. The electrical properties change depending on where the fabric is touched, and finger touches or slides on different areas can be programmed to control air-conditioning or change the volume of the stereo, explained Skorobogatiy in the article.
More car manufacturers are turning to touch-screen interfaces for their streamlined look, and they could use the smart fabric to simplify infotainment systems and declutter the center stack. It's only a matter of time until consumers start seeing this technology in vehicles, and according to New Scientist, BMW has plans to install touch-sensitive fabric in future models. Other sources report that the researchers have also piqued the interest of GM and Bombardier.
Of course, parents juggling sippy cups or drivers who dine behind the wheel will tell you that this is probably a bad idea. But rather than use metal wires, the smart fibers use woven conductive plastic, which makes material similar to Teflon.
Source: New Scientist