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Toyota Experimenting With Joystick Control For Cars 609

alphadogg writes "Today it's the stuff of video games, but Toyota is experimenting with joystick control for a new breed of compact cars and transporters. The world's biggest car maker built the technology into a couple of concept vehicles that were on display Wednesday at the Tokyo Motor Show. The FT-EV II, which got its world premiere at the event, is a compact electric vehicle designed for short trips. The car retains seats for four passengers despite being much more compact than most other cars, and packs drive-by-wire technology so it can be controlled with a joystick. The car's steering, braking and acceleration can be controlled by hand so foot pedals aren't needed, freeing up space to provide more legroom for the driver."
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Toyota Experimenting With Joystick Control For Cars

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  • Johnny Cab (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @11:51AM (#29824215)

    Have a hellava day!

    • You know I always thought that I crashed and dies on these car video games because I used a joystick.
      • Re:Johnny Cab (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Bat Country ( 829565 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @01:35PM (#29825679) Homepage
        Actually, it's probably because the 2d presentation of 3d space denies you of depth perception and along with the lack of physical feedback (vibration, accurately modelled engine noise) allows you to severely misjudge your speed and how well your vehicle is gripping the road.

        The only thing inherently worse about driving with a stick than with a wheel and pedals is that it's much easier to accidentally overcorrect, especially if you are unfamiliar with using an analog joystick (in other words you're either not pressing it at all, or you're pressing it as far to the right or left as you can). Well, there's also the stopping issue causing your body to shift and therefore bump the stick, possibly preventing you from stopping.

        At low speeds, I don't see these as being much more dangerous than a conventional steering mechanism, especially if there is signal noise filtration (shaky hands? let's ignore that) and a rate-of-turn limiter that scales with speed (simulation of "wheel resistance").

        The lack of a steering wheel might increase the risk of back and neck injury in an accident, however, due to the increased space you'd have to move in (even with an airbag).

        • Re:Johnny Cab (Score:5, Insightful)

          by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @04:00PM (#29827785) Homepage

          The thing about a steering wheel vs. joystick is that the former translates a large change in angle to a much smaller change in wheel angle, while a joystick does the exact opposite. You could certainly engineer a joystick with similar characteristics, but it would take up a lot of room -- hence the invention of the steering wheel.

          The minor corrections that we continuously, yet nearly unconsciously, make while driving would become burdensome when applied to a joystick. In a simulation like a video game, there are no road imperfections, steering dead zones, alignment, or tire balancing issues, and therefore mastering the joystick is quite possible (but by no means simple). Many games also employ variable stick-to-wheel angle ratios, so that a given stick angle at a low speed results in a larger change in wheel angle than at higher speed. These would likely be necessary for real vehicles, but they make it difficult to predict directional changes at a constant speed, and increasingly difficult with speed AND direction changes, since stick deflection must be increased or decreased as velocity changes.

          Even absent such "assistant" technologies, without independent controls steering while changing velocity becomes more challenging, not less. Say you're braking around a turn, which is followed by a short length of straight road and a stop sign/light. With independent controls, you maintain more or less static pressure on the brake pedal, while allowing the steering wheel to return to its natural zero-angle position. With a joystick, you have to maintain that position backwards while deliberately moving toward the center X axis, which is a much more challenging proposition, especially with inertial forces.

          Finally, the joystick necessarily either falls victim to one of two (or both) of the following:

          1) gorilla-arm [] when mounted in front of the driver, due to the fact that the operator can't rest any weight on the control.

          2) When mounted at or near the console, it requires the exclusive use of the the closest arm, which can also lead to fatigue. In a console-mounted position, it's hard to imagine a positioning system as effective as tilt/telescopic steering wheels to compensate for differing arm lengths and seat positions (which reflect torso and leg length).

          The steering wheel may be an old design, but they got it right.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          As far as braking and accel goes, i'd imagine the stick is pull back for accel and push forward for braking. At least I hope. This way overbraking due to decel will be the issue, which tech like ABS should help with. Which is better, in theory then underbraking.

          However, that leads to a possible over accel condition, which can be very bad, but once ur pushed into your seat, slowing should be much easier.
    • by Mikkeles ( 698461 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @01:15PM (#29825317)

      I wonder if Honda or Nissan will now go for a Wii controller?

  • The steering usually gives good feedback of the road. Will there be some feedback in the joystick too? It's essential to the driving experience!
    • Re:Force Feedback? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ByOhTek ( 1181381 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @12:07PM (#29824439) Journal

      The feedback is critical. The problem is, a force feedback on the joystick would probably make a bigger difference than on a wheel, since smaller movements would make larger turns. In that vein, it seems a wheel would give more fine-grained control. You may not be able to change the turn angle as fast, but you would probably be able to be more precise, which in most cases, I think is more important.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        but you would probably be able to be more precise, which in most cases, I think is more important.

        Especially in Europe. I can see joystick control working fine on American streets and highways, but in countries where they have two-lane roads barely the width of two smart cars, I'm not so sure.
      • Remember that this is Toyota though, where any pretense to steering feedback is drowned out in a shitshow of power assisted bleh.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LifesABeach ( 234436 )
        Putting a Joy Stick in the hands of a Social Pathetic Driver like Soccer Mom, Baseball Dad, or Hockey Mom? I didn't think YouTube [] had that much storage space available,
    • Re:Force Feedback? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @12:13PM (#29824503)

      Even worse is that the dynamics of a vehicle can make joystick control even worse. When you're just on a computer there is no angular acceleration of your body so its relatively simple.

      As you go into a left turn, your hand wants to keep going the direction it was going, which is actually right from your frame of reference. Meaning you have to pull left harder.

      Except that pull isn't the same for all speeds. Either they're going to have to dial down the controls for at speed or you're going to have a few people that get it up to 60 mph try to take a turn and over shoot their intended position....

      • I'm thinking that's exactly what they're going to do. If you're implement a drive-by-wire system you might as well go all the way and transform the joystick input based on speed, drivers preference and any other conditions you can think of. They've been doing it planes for years so I don't see why they can't do it in cars. Well actually there's one reason I can think of why this would be a bad idea, maintenance. Planes HAVE to be inspected and maintained constantly unlike cars where nobody really cares

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bertie ( 87778 )

      Modern cars, sadly, have little of the feedback of old. I'm convinced this makes them less safe, because you can't feel what the road's doing under you like you used to. This, coupled with ever-fatter tyres which grip and grip and grip and then suddenly don't grip, adds up to bad news. But people mostly manage. Feedback's great, but it doesn't seem to be necessary for most driving conditions.

      • Really good points. Also the new brakes on cars mask the difficulty in stopping form high speeds vs from low speeds (the pedal has the same resistance and other things) so one forget how much energy/momentum in involved (vs slightly older cars)... I wonder if this misleads young drivers...

  • by r_jensen11 ( 598210 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @11:53AM (#29824229)

    What happens when there's a power steering failure? I know it's not a common problem, but it is a problem which randomly comes up. At least with a steering wheel the driver can generally muscle the wheels to turn- I can't imagine a joystick acting as an actual lever to turn the wheels, but as more of an electronic device to turn on some motors which would handle this.

    • by koreaman ( 835838 ) <> on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @11:55AM (#29824259)

      Very good point. I've run out of gas twice, which kills power steering -- both times I'd have been stranded in the middle lane of a busy road had I not been able to coast the car long enough to pull over somewhere safe.

      • Failures of the power source of power steering are relatively easy to fix (use the wheels to either generate electricity or keep turning the pump). Failure of the steering system itself on the other hand is much harder to deal with. Complete failure of the steering system (not just power steering) can happen on a traditional vehicle but I have never actually witnessed it.

      • by isorox ( 205688 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @12:26PM (#29824661) Homepage Journal

        Very good point. I've run out of gas twice

        Once is unlucky. Twice is incompetent.

        • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @02:29PM (#29826541) Homepage Journal

          Very good point. I've run out of gas twice
          Once is unlucky. Twice is incompetent.

          Not if your gas guage is broke, or if you are.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dkf ( 304284 )

            Very good point. I've run out of gas twice

            Once is unlucky. Twice is incompetent.

            Not if your gas guage is broke, or if you are.

            Oh, but both are marks of incompetence. On the first one, not getting your gas meter fixed when you know it is broken, or not suspecting that something is wrong when it doesn't go down, is a mark of basic incompetence. On the second, undertaking substantial travel without the money to do so... well, why is it not incompetence? (And if you know you're running low, why not use techniques to increase your efficiency so that you can get to the next gas station?)

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by bitt3n ( 941736 )

          Very good point. I've run out of gas twice

          Once is unlucky. Twice is incompetent.

          Thrice is enemy action.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) *

      When I was pretty new to driving, I was rolling down a residential street in my dad's '78 Cougar. The engine died and the power steering went with it. I wasn't going too fast, but I was rolling straight toward a parked car. It took all I had to slowly pull the car into a turn. It was a very strange sensation, slowly heading towards a fender bender as I worked at the wheel. I did manage it, and it wouldn't have been too bad for me physically, but the other car was much newer and smaller and I would have

      • by mortonda ( 5175 )

        When I was pretty new to driving, I was rolling down a residential street in my dad's '78 Cougar. The engine died and the power steering went with it. I wasn't going too fast, but I was rolling straight toward a parked car. It took all I had to slowly pull the car into a turn.

        ...or you could have pulled the emergency brake ...

        • by smoker2 ( 750216 )

          ...or you could have pulled the emergency brake ...

          NO SUCH THING !

          Parking brake or service brake. That's all there is. Unless you have an anchor.

    • Given that it's an electric car (so the common power-steering system would need adjustments anyway) and they said it would be all drive-by-wire, I'd assume you'd be just as stuck with a steering wheel, as it wouldn't be directly connected to the wheels anyway.

      Given this is a just a demo, I'm sure they haven't worked all the bugs out, but this sounds like a solvable problem.

      • It's fail hard by design. The solution is to change the design, and it's cheaper to do that earlier rather than later.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MBGMorden ( 803437 )

      A joystick can be linked in the same way that a steering wheel can. Look at aircraft: many older ones have joysticks. Most newer craft have yokes (essentially a wheel), but both are linked to the control surfaces physically in much the same way that a steering wheel is linked to a car's wheels.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by kidgenius ( 704962 )
        Actually, Airbus' have joysticks, and they are all electrical, no connections to the actual surfaces, and no feedback either. Boeings all have yokes, the newer ones being completely separated from the actual surfaces (737 is the only one that has a quasi-connection, and they have feedback due to some motors in the base. The next gen is going to be joysticks that have feedback with motors.
    • Back in the Old days. Like the late 60s cars had full power steering. They were replaced with todays partial power steering as people didn't get the feedback from the road.

  • Great (Score:3, Funny)

    by PeeShootr ( 949875 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @11:53AM (#29824233)
    Great...because people aren't crappy enough drivers with an interface that they understand and have been using for decades.
    • Re:Great (Score:5, Funny)

      by dnahelicase ( 1594971 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @12:16PM (#29824553)
      This is exactly what I need. You don't know how many times I've been driving and wished that I could use just my hands instead of me feet. This would free up my feet so I could use them to dial my cell phone, mess with the radio, flip people the middle toe...
    • by sqldr ( 838964 )
      I'm left handed. I can guarantee this will be right-handed only. You probably want to watch out for my "wrong hand" driving skills while you're at it.
    • So, Toyota, you're planning on building a car that no one knows how to drive? Let us know how that works out for you.
    • by tepples ( 727027 )
      Gamers turning 16 or 18 depending on country have been using a joystick for years.
  • I always wondered when we'd finally switch from the same ol' method of controlling a car we've been using... well for the most part from the beginning of cars.

    I'm sure someone with the time to do it and some minor mechanical and electrical skills could make a modification to a car to function this way. Would be a fun project I think.

    • ... why would we switch from the same ol' method we've used since the beginning of cars. I'm not one to stick to something just because "we've always done it that way", but neither am I in favor of changing things for the sake of change. This would be a major change to the human-car interface, and is accordingly going to result in significant monetary and opportunity costs (people will need to be retrained, which costs time and money). I'm far from convinced that the benefits of this will be worth it.
  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @11:54AM (#29824255) Homepage

    They had some experimental vehicle that used a joystick. Upshot was that the joystick is NOT a good way to control a car due to its small range of movement. Doing subtle manouvering was a right PITA. Sure , technology may improve things but frankly a steering wheel gives perfect feedback for what it does and if something ain't broken...

    • I remember this as well. I believe the joystick would turn the wheels less at high speed than at low speed because the joystick had such a reduced range of motion compared to a steering wheel.

      The problems they encountered don't seem like ones there will likely be a solution to without taking a completely different approach. The steering mechanism having different levels of influence over the wheels depending on speed just seems like a recipe for disaster.

      I can understand why they would try though. I
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by caseih ( 160668 )

      That's not what I remember. I remember that it was very accurate and very quick. It was easy to safely swerve around around a pylon safely, for example. Much more so than a wheel. Ultimately a stick would highly benefit from a variable ratio. The faster you go, the more reduced the ratio is. Or if you move the stick hard and fast, the ratio temporarily increases or something. With such a system, subtle maneuvers should be easy and accurate.

  • by Luyseyal ( 3154 ) <> on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @11:55AM (#29824269) Homepage

    What, no keyboard + mouse option?


  • by Gorm the DBA ( 581373 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @11:56AM (#29824273) Journal
    It'll all be for noobs until you can keybind your macros...which requires a much more complex interface than a simple joystick...I mean, come on, what is this, pac-man?

    gimme a control that lets me:

    [StartMacro Name = 'RoadRage']
    /accelerate 90

    and then we'll be talking...till then...back to the drawing board.

  • by meow27 ( 1526173 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @11:57AM (#29824295)
    will there be interchangeable control options?
    will the controls have reverse controls or plain?

    will there be some nifty fire buttons?

    spy hunter looks so much more realistic now.

    now im waiting for a car that is controlled by a keyboard. that would be awsome
  • by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @11:58AM (#29824307)

    Very non-standard controls... the reason I can jump in basically any car and drive it is because the operations are mostly standardised. Left pedal clutch, middle break, right accelerator, steering wheel is obvious, indicators is the stick on the right. Lights etc trial-and-error mostly. Trucks, buses - well anything that hits the road and has more than two wheels pretty much works like that.

    This is so different, will we need special licenses/training for it? How about force-feedback, for example? I know it's experimental but still makes you wonder how about using it on the road.

    And safety. For such a super-compact car. Crumple zones don't compact well - maybe I should state that different. They need space to crumple in. Something like that. And that is space OUTSIDE the passenger compartment of course.

    • This is so different, will we need special licenses/training for it?

      Why? You don't need a special kind of license to drive stick vs. automatic. A license doesn't test for your ability to use the controls, it tests for your ability to do the right thing with the car features at the right times.

      Early cars didn't have steering wheels, and if the vehicle was street-legal you wouldn't need a special license today to drive one []

      • by Bazman ( 4849 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @12:31PM (#29824713) Journal

        In the UK you can pass your test in an automatic car, but then you aren't allowed to drive a stick (what we call 'manual gearbox'). You need to take your test in a manual gearbox car to be allowed to drive manual+auto.

        One of the great things about old land rovers like mine is of course the non-standard controls that make it harder for people to steal. First it's diesel, so you have to know to warm the engine on the 'glow' setting for a bit. If they get past that and the engine starts, then they have to know I've left the transfer box lever in neutral so the wheels won't go round even with the gear lever in. Oh and just for fun I can leave it in 4wd so if they do nick it the transmission will lock up on the road and leave them with a broken car. And half the time the battery is disconnected anyway because it goes flat if I don't drive for two weeks. Drive-by-wire? No thanks! And all those wusses complaining about failing power steering! Sheesh, grow some muscles!

        • by mister_playboy ( 1474163 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @01:47PM (#29825865)

          In the UK you can pass your test in an automatic car, but then you aren't allowed to drive a stick (what we call 'manual gearbox'). You need to take your test in a manual gearbox car to be allowed to drive manual+auto.

          We should do this in the US, actually.

          Drive-by-wire? No thanks! And all those wusses complaining about failing power steering! Sheesh, grow some muscles!

          Actually, manual and power assisted steering boxes use very different gearings. There is less torque multiplication (lower numerical gearing) in a assisted box... because it's "assisted" and doesn't normally need it. A car with non functioning power steering will need much more effort than a car with manual steering because the gearing is wider. Vehicle weight over the front tires and the front tire width has a big effect, as well.

          An example would be the manual steering in my father's 1955 Stuebaker versus the 1984 BMW 318i I drove which had power steering but would leak out all its fluid in a day or so (so I always drove it empty). The BMW took a lot of effort, the Studebaker much less so.

      • A license tests your ability to control your speed and drive in a straight line. It doesn't test reaction time, situational awareness, common sense, general car control skills, resistance to road rage, or any of the other features people might find lacking in their peers (but never themselves strangely).

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        In many countries, you do actually need a different license to drive a manual. The UK and Australia, for example. The manual license covers both, since automatic cars are trivial to drive if you can already drive a manual. The reverse is not true.

        Changing the controls means that you need to concentrate far more on operating the controls, which means you won't be concentrating on the road as much. A driving license test for your ability to safely control the car. There's no way you'd be able to pass a drivin

    • by spaceyhackerlady ( 462530 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @12:35PM (#29824763)

      Not having pedals or a steering column to deal with in a crash gives the engineers lots of scope to make cars safer. I'll be following this with interest.

      The control layout we have in cars today wasn't finalized until after WW2. Prior to that, many cars had the accelerator in the middle, with the clutch and brake on either side. Some cars had unique setups - ever driven a Model T?

      Even today, there are two "standards" for minor controls on right hand drive cars. British RHD cars have the turning signals on the left of the steering column. Japanese and Australian RHD cars have the turning signals on the right. I drive a Mitsubishi L300 Delica, so I'm used to reaching with my right hand for the turning signals.

      While it had a steering wheel, the GM Hy-Wire concept was drive by wire as well. Some Citroen models were effectively drive by wire (e.g. the SM), with no mechanical connection between the steering wheel and road wheels unless the engine or power steering failed.


  • I seem to remember (Score:5, Informative)

    by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @11:58AM (#29824309)
    In the late 80s, early 90s Saab experimented with a joystick control, a "drive by wire if you will." Stephanie Stahl from 60 minutes did a story on the drive by wire Saab. Ultimately, it proved not to be the game changer everyone thought. The joystick was placed where the gear shifter normally was. One of the problems was the sensitivity and lack of road feedback. It was actually hard to drive and keep steady.
    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )
      GM tried it even earlier. In the '60s there was the Firebird III [] although that was not a production car.
    • If people didn't try things because others had failed at the same thing before, the Wright brothers never would've left the ground. Kudos to Toyota.

      • by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @12:36PM (#29824767)

        The Wright brothers kept trying because they were dealing with a new field and improvements to technology were being made.

        Driving with a stick is not a new field, a little history and you'd notice that cars started out this way. Steering wheels were the progression AWAY from driving with a stick. To top it off, nothing has changed to improve the technology. Adding computers and fly by wire actually makes it worse, unless you add even more technology to make it essentially the same as before you added the computer.

        This is roughly the same as arguing that its a good idea to put the engine the Wright brothers used in the Flyer into your modern day Cessna and trying to fly it.

        You are correct, if no one tried there would never be any improvements ... problem is, they already tried, and the improvement was NOT TO USE A STICK.

        History is hard, lets go shopping!

    • Play a modern racing game and the conclusion doesn't even take real world examples to reach.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      The steering wheel in my Chevy is about 18 inches in diameter and goes two full turns in each direction to turn the front wheels through about +-/40 degrees. Driving on the highway, it's very rare to make motions more than about 1 inches in either direction. That's a max error of 1in/[(4*18*3in)/80deg] = approx 0.5 deg. You could imagine a speed-sensitive joystick doing that for you, giving you that range over the full max range of the joystick to give you about the same precision as you get with your hand
    • This is just idle speculation, but what if they took care of the 'keeping steady' part for you? Both for speed and direction. For speed, it would be like you are always using cruise control, the neutral forward/back position means maintain the current speed. Back a little is coast, back a lot is brake. Steering is harder, obviously, but is a move towards auto-drive systems that most of us have wanted for decades.

      I guess that what I'm trying to say is that technology has changed a lot in 20 years. What

  • Finally (Score:3, Funny)

    by decipher_saint ( 72686 ) * on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @11:59AM (#29824317)

    A car with yaw control...

    • All cars have yaw control, thats what the steering wheel does.

      Perhaps you're thinking of Roll or Attitude control.

      Personally I think most drivers need a little attitude control, and they really need to roll faster in most cases as well.

  • by ZenDragon ( 1205104 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @12:01PM (#29824351)
    There are so many problems with this idea I cant even imgaine...
    1) As somebody else mentioned, power steering failure is a big one
    2) A car does not move conducive to the way a joystick moves, the throttle/break and steering need to be seperate.
    or your just asking for trouble in a hard turn or emergency situation.
    3) I guarantee you, steering fatigue will set in if a drivers only means for controlling the vehicle are with one hand.
    4) I could go on but I think most of these issues are quite obvious.
    • Definitely agree on the fatigue. I've driven a fair amount of level and/or joystick controlled equipment (lawn mowers, construction equipment, robots) and your arms get tired a lot faster than driving with a wheel, where it mostly stays straight without any input from you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cptdondo ( 59460 )

        I've flown an F15 simulator (the real one, not FlightGear) and the joy stick is pretty cool once you figure it out.

        The plane is fly-by-wire. You set the stick to what you want and the computers take care of it. So you set the stick to fly straight and the computers fly it straight.

        The one disconcerting thing is that the stick doesn't center; you put the plane in a right hand turn and it stays there until you apply reverse pressure to make it fly straight.

        So I can see something like this. You set it to go

    • I think it would be a great steering system for an electric car that has motors on both front wheels. For that kind of car, emergency turning could be as simple as one wheel moving faster than the other, so even if conventional steering died (as in the wheels stopped angling left or right) you could still turn.
    • In panic stops, we already have trouble with not-so-good drivers slamming on the accelerator instead of the brake. Then there's the effect of the driver's body inertia on the stick. Is pushing the stick forward the same as accelerating? What if you slam on the brakes? Will your body moving forward make you stop braking and start accelerating when you brace yourself? Same things for turns, move the stick to the left, body leans to the right. The steering wheel is a rotational device. It's independent

  • I will finally be able to drift around corners since I can't do it in real life, but I am a pretty awesome drifter in games.

  • The steering wheel is in the middle, will the joystick likewisde be in the middle, or off to one side?

  • Feel free to ignore (Score:3, Informative)

    by moogied ( 1175879 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @12:10PM (#29824465)
    This won't ever see the light of day. For one, its not currently legal in America. Two, it would only result in a much higher rate of impact. (Slam on your brakes next time you drive, see which way your hand moves. Is it forward?! Oh no! you just hit the car going 30 instead of 22). THREE, if its NOT BROKE. Do NOT fix it. Four, there is 0 gain from this. At all. Also, unless we start seeing it on race cars no one will ever take it seriously.
    • I agree that this is just a publicity stunt or an attempt by Toyota to prove that they "think outside of the box". However, the idea of putting the throttle and breaking controls where they will be controlled by the hands is a good idea (although it may prove impractical). There have been numerous studies that indicate that reaction times are significantly better with the hands than with the feet.
    • Won't happen. Wheels give you more control than joysticks. There's a reason they sell all those wheel toys for racing games (hint: it's because it's easier to play with those, not because it looks cool).

  • by snspdaarf ( 1314399 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @12:11PM (#29824477)
    From watching people drive, one would think many already have a hand on the joystick.
  • Add a decent HUD as well...
  • I can just see it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @12:14PM (#29824509)
    when the kid, puppy, cat, or even coffee do something unexpected.

    A yoke is just plain more stable than a stick. The latter is great for quick input of large control motions, but has more drawbacks than advantages where the objective is smooth and precise results with minimal interference.

    For all of the "fighter jock" fantasies, drivers are a lot more like jumbo jet jockeys. That includes race drivers -- or don't you think that someone would have put this to use on the F1 circuit already if it was actually better?

    • "A yoke is just plain more stable than a stick. "

      Which is why yokes are used for armored fighting vehicles instead of joysticks. :)

    • The reality is that a joystick will allow a twitch of your arm to go from full right turn at full throttle to full left turn at full brake.

      Thats not something that people can do currently with a wheel and peddles, AND THATS A GOOD THING. Don't believe me? Get in your car, get up to 70mph or so on an isolated road (don't want to hurt anyone other than yourself) and turn your steering wheel back and forth from full left to full right.

      $20 says you can't even get it all the way to one extreme before losing co

  • This may be particularly useful for disabled people with a limited range of motion. There are already cars without pedals for the wheelchair-bound.
  • This is an exceptionally bad idea. Even with extensive training, in an emergency, you do not think about how to react, and decades of "muscle memory" kicks in. There will be many, many instances of someone in a crisis situation trying in vain to stop their vehicle by attempting to stomp on a non-existant brake pedal.

    If you change the QWERTY keyboard, for example, all you have are some frustrated touch-typists. Change this interface and you're going to have scores of dead bodies followed by inevitable
  • Mercedes have had working prototypes of steering-wheel-less cars for a heck of a long time now, but they can't bring them to market because European safety laws require a physical connection between steering wheel and steered wheels. For obvious reasons - if your fancy fly-by-wire joystick suddenly stops working, you are in deep doo-doo.

  • All new cars with come with WASD navigation.
  • At least with a steering wheel you have to make 2 or 3 full revolutions to get the wheels at a full turn angle, with a joystick it would just be a flick of your wrist. Can you say flip over?
  • Joystick steering has been tried, and it sucks.

    General Motors tried it with Firebird III [] in 1958. That car also featured automatic lane-holding, using a wire in the pavement. The vehicle was very hard to control, but it looked really cool.

    When we did our DARPA Grand Challenge vehicle, at one point we were controlling it remotely over a WiFi link for test purposes. We tried a joystick, but it was too easy to overcontrol. We got a Logitech racing game steering wheel (a USB peripheral) and pedals, inte

  • An interesting thing, at least to me, here is how the public will accept or reject their changed around user interface. Given that there is a more or less fair and competitive market for cars it is possible and likely that people will reject this change by not buying this kind of vehicle.

    If this were a Microsoft software product everybody would be using it regardless if they like it or not. *cough*Office ribbon*cough*

  • by siriuskase ( 679431 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @01:05PM (#29825197) Homepage Journal
    The neat thing to me is that if the stick comes up between the seats (rather than between the legs), you could drive from either seat. This would be handy on long trips where you don't want to stop simply to change drivers, or when the current driver suffers a sudden medical problem.
  • by Bruiser80 ( 1179083 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @01:48PM (#29825875)
    Could somebody give me a car-based analogy to this article?

Fear is the greatest salesman. -- Robert Klein