Touchscreens are becoming more and more common in new cars these days. For example, the recently unveiled Tesla Model X has a 17 inch touchscreen which serves as its central console. Now researches are working on the next step: smart fabrics.

Researches have developed a flexible, polymer-based fiber that can be woven into a fabric. Thanks to its electrical properties that change depending where it touched, these fabrics act like the touchscreen on your phone. Also interesting is the fact these fibers could be easily cleaned, essential for material used everyday in cars.

In an interview with New Scientist, researcher Maksim Skorobogatiy of the Polytechnic School in Montreal said:

In essence we are trying to reproduce the smartphone experience in textile form. We are looking for applications where we can weave in sleek, non-invasive control, avoiding blocks of push buttons.

An implication of this technology is that you can control the air-conditioning or the radio just by finger movements such as swipes and touches. BMW is already analyzing this technology. The German carmaker is convinced touch-sensitive surfaces are a very interesting technology for controlling operations in a car.

BMW presented the conceptual Vision ConnectedDrive at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, which already offered a glimpse into the future. This car was designed to be operated via a touch-sensitive dashboard. According to BMWblog, this technology will be available within five years, “creating fist real synergy between the car and its passengers.”

[Via New Scientist and BMWblog]

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