A cross between an arcade game and an appointment with a healthcare specialist, Japanese sensor technology company Alps Electric's take on the car cabin of tomorrow is a veritable high-tech showcase.
Presented at this year's Ceatec expo in Japan, some of the features, such as automatically-adjusting seating, mirror, music and climate control settings based on the driver is nothing new (most luxury and executive car makers, from BMW to Bentley can already sync a driver's preferences to a car key or USB memory stick), but in the Alps car, all you'll need is your face as facial recognition sensors and technology are central to its concept.
The car won't unlock its doors or start if it doesn't recognize the driver and, even if it does, it will be ready to step in and take control if it notices that the driver is not paying sufficient attention to the road ahead. To ensure that this distraction is simply tiredness rather than something more serious, an array of sensors monitor the driver's vital signs and therefore knows when to continue with the journey and when to call a doctor.
Of course, it wouldn't be a modern or futuristic take on the car dashboard without some form of smartphone and internet connectivity and in the Alps concept, NFC technology pairs the driver's phone with the car's system, meaning that a smartphone's contents can be accessed via hand gestures so that there's no need to touch the screen or to refocus attention away from the road ahead.
A number of tech companies, including Harman and Microsoft, as well as carmaker Mercedes Benz, are already developing gesture recognition technology for in-car use. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas back in January 2012, Mercedes showcased something it called DICE (Dynamic & intuitive Control Experience), which enables drivers to perform basic and not-so-basic functions via swipes and by pointing individual fingers. Meanwhile Harman is looking to develop a dictionary of gestures which can be used to replace buttons and knobs currently used inside most car cabins with an array of infra-red sensors.