Car interiors are the focus of much attention right now. We want cabins that are smarter, more luxurious and more jam-packed with technology than ever before. Perhaps that's why so many car makers chose to display their future interior concepts at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.
While naturally there were various takes on the future cabin theme, the main points are as follows. In just a few years' time, there will be almost no new cars launched with analogue dials. Instead, they'll feature an all-digital instrument cluster, more likely as part of a wider screen in front of the driver.
Of course, some of this technology is already here. The current Mercedes-Benz S-Class uses an all-digital dashboard, Audi's TT, Q7 and new A4 can all be bought with the firm's Virtual Cockpit and the new E-Class - now just days away from its debut at the Detroit motor show - allows drivers to customise the look of its digital dashboard using pre-set themes.
Audi showcased an interior concept derived from that used on the e-tron quattro at CES, but instead of just featuring touchscreens in every area, the infotainment system also uses haptic feedback. Bosch showed another example of this technology, which it says is designed to keep a driver's eyes on the road. The touchscreen can replicate the feeling and sensation of pushing a button on a flat surface, which means future interiors won't have buttons at all, or at least far fewer of them than today's cars do.
Next, the cabins of these cars will be connected to other devices in your home. One of the most interesting concepts I saw at CES came from Jaguar, which was showcasing an F-Pace SUV which used connected technology from Intel. The car could link up to a central unit inside the house to tell you if you'd left anything inside. Not only that, but it can also pinpoint exactly where those items are. Connecting a car in this way brings other advantages, too, including the ability to replicate the temperature and music choice of the house inside the car.
Most car makers are also looking to bring gesture controls into their cabins. This is viewed as being a logical next step from touchscreens and buttons, with most systems designed to replicate the swiping gestures that are used to control smartphones and tablets.
Passengers will be able to personalise the cabin, too. Volkswagen's Budd-e concept features a large screen which can be pre-loaded with music, pictures and streaming content from passengers before a journey. Volkswagen says it's designed to encourage interaction, rather than each individual passenger using their own smart device.
For the moment, the majority of this interior techn is in the research phase. Jaguar, for example, readily admits it doesn't know what its customers want from a connected car, but simpler solutions like gesture control are just around the corner.
In fact, the new BMW 7 Series already features a form of gesture control, and the new Volkswagen Golf will use its own version this year. If these systems prove to be successful, expect this kind of technology to come thick and fast into your next car.