BMW iDrive Touch ControllerBMW plans to reflect the growing dominance of touchscreen systems by complementing its pioneering iDrive controller with a new touch control system. 

The firm says the new touchscreen will alongside the original iDrive Controller and the more recent touch-sensitive surface addition, iDrive Touch Controller.

It will be a touch-sensitive version of the current iDrive screen.

Importantly, touchscreen control will not replace the twist-and-push iDrive wheel, but work alongside it. “It is possible at any time to switch between the iDrive Controller, the iDrive Touch Controller or the touchscreen” says BMW.

An example is entering sat nav directions: a virtual keyboard appears as a user’s hand approaches the touchscreen, but the iDrive controller can also be used at any point. Tapping in telephone numbers will also be easier than scrolling the iDrive wheel.

Inspired by the proliferation of smartphones and tablet computers, BMW’s first move to in-car touchscreens is a response to “this change in user habits.

“Users have now become used to performing intuitive finger movements across screens or using learned gestures to interact with programmes on their devices.

“In many areas, touchscreens have already replaced input devices such as the keyboard, mouse or touchpad, offering improved speed and more precise response.”

This trend is now to be launched in showroom-ready BMW cars, within the next one to two years.

Gesture control coming too

BMW is also showcasing non-contact gesture control at CES 2015. Instead of physically scrolling or swiping, pre-programmed gestures are instead performed, in the area around the gear level, steering wheel and touchscreen display.

It uses a 3D sensor in the roof to read fingertip actions – BMW says it can control radio volume, accept or decline calls or even operate next-gen infotainment systems.

The proliferation in user control systems is aimed at broadening convenience and, says BMW, adding to its cars’ premium status. All will work in sync with one another so drivers can swap between the most convenient control method depending on conditions.