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Car Tech Spotlight: TV in the dash

Drivers will soon be able to watch their shows in the instrument panel, or move them to the dash with a wave of the hand.

By Douglas Newcomb Nov 2, 2012 12:35PM

Continental IP TV concept.Europeans are more permissive than Americans in everything from nudity at public beaches to the lack of speed limits on the German autobahn. Despite the liberal use of the word “liberty” to describe U.S. ideals, it seems Europeans place more importance on personal freedoms -- and along with this, individual responsibility -- than we do here. Or maybe they just have a lot fewer trial lawyers and liability lawsuits.

That may explain why it isn’t illegal in Germany for the driver to watch TV when the car is stopped. A few weeks ago at Continental's German headquarters, I did just that with a new TV concept built into the instrument panel.

One vehicle I sat in displayed live broadcast TV on a small screen in the instrument panel when the car wasn’t moving, and would automatically switch to a larger dashboard screen once the car started to move. The switch between screens could also be done with a wave of the driver's hand.

The prototype system uses gesture control to toggle the video image between the displays, and it’s a trick you could be seeing on production cars in the U.S. soon -- minus the live-TV-in-the-dash part. Microsoft and Harman reportedly are working on gesture control for car infotainment systems, with Microsoft using technology from its Xbox Kinect controller.

But don’t expect to see TV in the instrument panel or dash here any time soon. It's illegal in all 50 states to have video in view of the driver. Even the Mercedes-Benz SplitView screen, which allows the front-seat passenger to view a video while the driver sees only navigation or other operational information on the same screen, has straddled a legal gray area since it was introduced in the U.S. in 2008.

Even though this is innovative and cool technology -- and because we already have enough distractions behind the wheel as it is -- perhaps it’s better that in-car TV stays over there.

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