TOUCHSCREENS such as those used in the Ford Territory have reached their use-by date and voice recognition is the way of the future, Ford's top designer says.
The global design director of Ford, J. Mays, says poking a screen to control functions such as audio and satellite navigation would not allow the flexibility to upgrade vehicles to new features as they become available.
He says customers will need to learn how to talk to their cars as rapid improvements in voice recognition technology make the touchscreen redundant.
''At the moment we've got a 'human machine interface' in the middle, which is a touchscreen, but we're realising as we want to upgrade functionality very quickly that that's not going to be around that long,'' he says.
''We've already got a Focus that understands 1200 different [voice] commands, so we think, 'What's it going to be in another year?' Well, it's going to be a lot more than that … we're not far away from having really understandable voice-activated technology.''
Ford's Evos design concept car, to be unveiled at next week's Frankfurt motor show, does not have a conventional LCD screen on its centre console for the driver to operate.
Instead, it relies on an extensive dictionary of voice commands so that - in an imaginary future - its driver can connect to a ''cloud'' of data where the car interacts with weather reports, road conditions, parking availability and its owner's work schedule to deliver the optimum driving experience.
''This cloud-connected vision shows the enormous potential of tailoring the driving experience to suit the exact personal tastes and moods of the driver,'' says the global research and innovation team leader for Ford, Paul Mascerenas.
''From recommending a great driving road from friends on your social networks, or resetting your alarm clock to let you sleep in when a morning meeting gets cancelled.''
While exterior design elements of the Evos including the frontal treatment, low roof and bulging front and rear fenders are destined to be seen in Fords of the not-too-distant future, Mays says the interior's sweeping architecture and slimline seats will arrive further down the track.
''It's quite a bit further out on the horizon,'' he says.
''It says we're going to have a more driver-oriented interior but I would say the rest of the interior is further out on the horizon by seven or eight years than the rest of the car.''
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