LOS ANGELES, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Japanese carmaker Toyota says it is developing technology to allow drivers to control certain in-car functions such as radio volume with simple hand gestures.
The head of Toyota's U.S. division said the company is working on new hand-motion technology that could have in-car applications to help limit distracted driving by keeping a driver's eyes on the road.
"We believe the driver must always be engaged," Jim Lentz told The Wall Street Journal at the Los Angeles Auto Show. "It's really, really critical as auto manufacturers, all these new technologies that we put in cars will lead to less distracted driving."
The gesture-recognition research is being conducted in partnership with Microsoft Corp., Lentz said.
In addition to hand gestures, Toyota said it is working on a prototype system called the Smart Insect that has on-board motion sensors that can recognize the driver's face and body and tries to predict behavior by analyzing their movement. It also uses voice recognition to open doors and perform other functions.
Lentz called the system "our version of Herbie the Lovebug, but highly updated and tricked out."