Auto Tech

Volkswagen demonstrates tech for smartphone lovers and fingerprint haters

Volkswagen brings Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Mirrorlink to the dashboard, starting with the e-Golf, while demonstrating gesture controls in the Golf R Touch concept.

Josh Miller/CNET
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Volkswagen

LAS VEGAS - With the fully electric e-Golf as its showcase, Volkswagen gives us a peek at the next generation of its modular infotainment platform, which is coming later this year. And then the automaker gave us a glimpse of its far infotainment future with the Golf R Touch concept.

Known as MIB II, the new modular infotainment platform's most impressive party trick is that it will be debuting with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirrorlink connectivity all baked in at launch. The three app and smartphone mirroring technologies will be branded and packaged together under the VW App-Connect label and simultaneously launched in the North America and Europe.

Being modular, the e-Golf's tech can be evolved over the lifetime of the vehicle. VW envisions the current semi-automatic Park Assist feature to evolve to the point where the driver doesn't have to be in the vehicle while it's parking, merely monitoring the process from their smartphone or smartwatch. And similar to Valeo's InBlue tech demonstrated earlier today, Volkswagen also expects that one day your smartphone or watch will be a Digital Key, replacing the fob.

The Golf R Touch concept has a dashboard that you don't actually have to touch. Josh Miller/CNET

Alongside the e-Golf, VW also pulled the wraps off of the Golf R Touch. Calling it "Touch" is rather misleading, as one of its coolest tricks is that you don't have to touch its three screens, thanks to the incorporation of gesture controls.

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Drivers can interact with the Golf R Touch's 8-inch lower Control Center display with pressure sensitive, multi-touch controls. They can click, drag and resize live tile overlays around the 12.8-inch upper infotainment screen and customize the 12.3-inch Active Information digital instrument cluster. However, Volkswagen sayds it "extends the touchscreen operation into a third dimension" with the inclusion of the gesture controls, which allow the driver to interact with the screens with simple hand movements in the space in front of the infotainment display.

A gesture-controlled interface lets drivers wave and poke at the screen without making contact. Josh Miller/CNET

I'm not 100 percent sold on the idea of wiggling my fingers around in front of a perfectly good touchscreen. But gesture controls could allow automakers like Volkswagen to be more creative with screen placement in areas that are more visible, but would previously be a stretch to touch, such as the upper dashboard and windshield. Using gestures over touch can also help keep those glossy screens free of fingerprints, which is a bonus.

The Golf R Touch's gesture-controlled dashboard may not reach the road anytime soon, but we can expect to see the next generation MIB II in Volkswagen vehicles later this year.