We love automotive technology. The new vehicles innovations are something we try hard to pay attention to, but every so often an automaker comes out with a feature that doesn’t seem to make things easier or solve any problem. BMW’s Gesture Control, which can be found on the BMW 7-Series, 5-Series, X5, and X4, is a perfect example. It’s a neat feature, and we applaud the technology behind it, but we question its importance. A main function of the feature is to turn up the volume. This isn’t a difficult thing to do in any car, and if BMW wanted to make it easier to crank up the tunes, it should have just made its tiny-ass volume knob bigger.
Why So Small, BMW?
If you’ve been in a BMW car or SUV recently, you’ll know that the volume knob on the car is pretty pathetic. It feels high-quality, but if you don’t have dainty fingers, you probably cursed this knob more than once for being too small. It’s easy to turn the knob too much or not enough. You can chalk that up to our own inept clumsiness, but even after driving plenty of BMWs, this problem persists for us. We know we’re picking at a small detail here, but in luxury cars, details matter. The volume knob should be bigger.
Because of this annoyance, Gesture Control sometimes seems like a complicated, technology-heavy way to solve a simple issue. After all, you have to put your hand more or less in front of the screen to make Gesture Control work, and it might take a second for the system to realize why you’re waving your hand around. Using the volume knob is quicker and would be easier if BMW hadn’t put such a tiny friggin’ knob on the dash.
Gesture Control is Still Cool
Don’t get us wrong about BMW’s fancy tech. It’s cool. It’s a fun feature that makes us excited for what's to come, but in this case, it feels unnecessary. It also seems to lack precision. We've used it numerous times on recent review cars, and it doesn't seem to add anything. Sure, Gesture Control has other functions, like taking or rejecting calls, but the steering wheel controls do the same things. If you use those controls, you never take your hands off the wheel while your driving, either. The only time the Gesture Control does something the steering wheel controls can't is when the car is equipped with the surround view monitor and you want to spin the car on the screen (shown in the video above). That feature, however, can be done with the dial/joystick controller on the center console, too.
We get that this kind of technology is just beginning and the ability to customize certain hand gestures could come in handy for shortcutting to certain apps or features within the infotainment system. BMW has this, but it’s capabilities are limited to just one hand gesture and one selected feature. The volume control for Gesture Control just points out an issue we find with the cars that could be more easily solved by simply increasing the size of the volume knob.
People Like Volume and Tune Knobs
The perfect infotainment system doesn’t exist. No company has figured out the best possible way to configure a system and its controls, and it’s awesome that BMW does something different here. That said, there’s one glaringly obvious infotainment control feature that some automakers overlook, and it’s the fact that people like reasonably sized and properly placed volume and tune knobs on the dash.
There’s a clear reason why. Since the very first basic radios in cars, there have been volume and tune knobs. People have had those two controls for almost a century now. They’re used to them, and nobody has yet found a good way to replace them. Gesture control is a novel idea. It offers a new way of controlling vehicle functions, but we hesitate to say it’s really any easier to use than typical knobs, buttons, and touchscreens. Bottom line, BMW needs to beef up its volume knob.