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GHSP's new car controls prove buttons and knobs aren't dead

More than just a knob, GHSP's new multifunction controllers aim to seamlessly integrate with touchscreen and autonomous driving technologies.

Who needs a touchscreen?

More and more, automotive tech is moving to touchscreens and gesture controls, but for many, there's just no replacing the satisfying tactility of physical buttons and knobs. At CES 2021 this week, automotive systems supplier GHSP gives us a look at two high-tech control knobs that could help intuitively blend the two schools of thought. 

GHSP, which also announced that it's bringing anti-pathogen ultraviolet light cleaning technology to passenger cars, says that its newly debuted dual-stack rotary controller and multifunction controller will be making their way into vehicles soon, where they will "enable drivers to intuitively reach down and gain control of their car without having to take their eyes off the road," according to a statement.

More than just a knob, GHSP envisions the multifunction controller will work with touchscreen technology, balancing a simple and uncluttered interface with the tactile feedback of physical controls. The familiar controller can be twisted, pressed, nudged and -- as you can see in the video preview -- control everything from audio settings and volume to climate systems to autonomous driving technology, transitioning seamlessly from task to task in a streamlined manner.

A second video envisions how GHSP's dual-stack rotary controller can replace an entire bank of buttons, a traditional control wheel and a shift lever. When the driver starts the car with a biometric fingerprint sensor on the controller's surface, a second, motorized knob that rises concentrically from the main wheel to provide even more touchy-feely twisting.

The two knobs operate independently. GHSP envisions the upper knob being used for drive controls -- shifting between Park, Drive, Reverse, etc. -- and safety related systems. This top knob features monostable rotation, meaning it returns to center after being twisted to select. It is also demonstrated to tie in with certain autonomous and semi-autonomous driving systems, shown retracting when its conceptual host vehicle enters self-driving mode. 

The lower knob is reserved for infotainment commands, much like the previous multifunction controller. This wheel has full 360-degree rotation, can be pressed to make selections and features a different texture and physical separation from the upper controller to prevent accidentally grabbing the wrong knob -- though we can still see this setup taking a lot of getting used to.