Business Management

Like Android in a car: Touchpad by Mercedes-Benz supports writing, gesturing, and haptic feedback

Touch controls in cars can feel primitive compared to those in contemporary smartphones and tablets, but Mercedes-Benz could be onto something with the touchpad in the 2015 S65 AMG. You can write, gesture, swipe, and zoom with it, just like on a touchscreen phone or tablet. It also offers haptic feedback. An Android user driving this car should be familiar with all of these features (iPads and iPhones lack haptic feedback). But even if you don't use Android, the natural feel of these input methods could make this touchpad less distracting than other touch controls we've seen in cars.

The S65's touchpad measures 2.6 inches high by 1.8 inches wide, and it's located in the center console, in front of the armrest. The touchpad links to a large screen mounted on the dash. It lets you draw with your finger to write words for navigation, like "Main Street," as you drive, all without having to look down. You can also write numbers and symbols. Unlike the touchpad in several Audi models, it supports gestures like two-finger pinch.

In a one-up on iOS devices, Mercedes says the touchpad will use haptic technology--that soft, buzzing sensation you feel in your fingertips to confirm taps and gestures. The sensor knows if you just graze the touchpad or rest your hand there, and when you are issuing commands. Near the touchpad, the buttons for the back function, the favorites menu, and an audio quick menu also provide haptic feedback. We've seen haptic feedback in other cars' touch interfaces, such as the Cadillac CUE, but not in an input device like this touchpad.

Of course, this little touchpad is not quite as luscious as the huge, mega-tablet display on the Tesla Model S. But where that interface is mesmerizing for its sheer size, the Mercedes-Benz's touchpad control is designed to be unobtrusive and could help S65 drivers keep their eyes on the road rather than the screen.


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