Digital Dash, Apple’s patent which turns car dashboards to touchscreen

garmin deviceApple has been under fire from critics and consumers in recent months, for what many claim is a lack of innovation. But, it seems the Californian tech giant is hitting back at anyone who feels it has lost its momentum with new cutting-edge technology for the car.

The Steve Jobs-founded firm has just been granted a patent in the US for a new system it is calling Digital Dash, which turns car dashboards into huge touchscreens.

Already, many motorists use their iPhones as SatNavs to find their way around, but it seems Apple wants to go a whole step further.

Designed by Timothy Pryer, it would appear the invention, originally called the Digital Dash reconfigurable Tactile Display (RTD) has been snapped up by Apple who are now developing it further.

The patent is now called Programmable tactile touch screen displays and man-made interfaces for improved vehicle instrumentation and telematics. But, clearly Apple decided that wasn’t particularly user-friendly, and named it Digital Dash for short.

It is expected the new system will be fitted with laser pointers to track the driver’s eye movements as well as cameras to monitor head movements, and voice controls so the motorist doesn’t have to physically press any buttons.

Apple iosThere are, however, some onscreen switches, which are textured in a way which makes them feel like real buttons, to control such functions as air conditioning and windscreen wipers. With different textures for different functions, the driver should be able to work out what they are pressing, without the need to take their eyes of the road and look down at the screen.

Just as most commuters now fit in some work, or at least check their emails and messages while on the bus or train, Pryer believes Digital Dash will enable people to improve work productivity explaining: “People in the USA spend over 500 million hours in their cars and much of this time is wasted, from a business point of view.”

While details of Digital Dash are fairly limited at the moment, the patent comes on top of the in-car features of Apple’s recently announced iO7 software, which is expected to launch next year.

BMW is already understood to be in discussions to perhaps  make the new Apple system a standard feature in new models, with motorists who have vehicles fitted with iOS able to connect up their iPhone and then interact with their dashboard by using either their car’s in-built display or with the Siri Eyes Free feature.

It means drivers can make phone calls without either falling foul of the law or risking their own and other road users’ safety, listen to music during their journey, send messages and get directions if they’re lost.

Apple said: “It’s all designed to let iPhone focus on what you need, so you can focus on the road.”

For those who simply can’t wait to boost their in-car technology, SatNav manufacturer Garmin has just introduced a new Heads Up Display (HUD), which displays directions directly onto your windscreen from a wirelessly connected smartphone. Costing around $130, it’s a slightly more affordable option than a new BMW!