Sensory Steering Wheels: A Hot (Or Cool) New Way to Navigate


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At DC Clear Auto Bra, we are car lovers through and through. We always stay up to date with the latest automotive technology, and now Jaguar Land Rover has given us something really cool (or hot) to share with you.


Sensory Steering Wheels

Imagine this: You’re driving in a low-visibility situation. Maybe there’s fog in the air, or maybe you’re driving down an especially dark stretch of road. Either way, you’re hesitant to glance down even for a moment to look at your GPS because doing so could put you in danger of a crash. Suddenly, the right side of your steering wheel heats up beneath your hand, indicating that you have a right turn coming up soon. You relax and brake for the turn, never having taken your eyes off of the road ahead.

It might sound like futuristic technology, but for some automakers like Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), the future is now. The company is working on a sensory steering wheel that provides silent feedback by using thermal cues to help drivers navigate their route. The steering wheel could heat up or cool down with a temperature variance of up to 60 degrees to get the driver’s attention.


JLR says the temperature changes could be used to alert drivers to things that don’t necessarily warrant an audible alarm. The thermal cues could be helpful during rush hour commutes, or in situations like the one described above, where drivers need to keep their eyes on the road instead of on navigation screens.

Sensory steering wheels could also be a new weapon to fight the rising fatalities associated with distracted driving. Studies show that 10% of all fatal traffic accidents are caused by distracted motorists. JLR intends for the thermal cues to convey non-urgent information in a less distracting way than a bell or alarm. The company suggested that this technology could be used to draw attention to a low fuel level, nearby landmarks, or calendar reminders. The idea is to keep the driver informed, but not to grab their attention for something that can wait.

JLR says thermal cues could have a future in self-driving vehicles as well. One idea was to have temperature changes occur in gear-shift paddles whenever a vehicle switches over from manual drive to autonomous control.

JLR has done work before on developing haptic feedback systems. These systems use ultrasound to create feeling in mid-air, doing away with the need for a driver to actually touch their touch-screens. The ultrasound tracks the movement of their fingers through the air and uses that tracking to predict where the finger-strokes would land. All of the research has one goal in mind: safety. These are important first steps toward developing a system that will allow a driver to get safely to their destination without constantly looking back and forth from road to screen.

DC Clear is excited to see what the future holds for sensory and free-space haptic technology, and we are hopeful that these systems can make a difference in distracted driving fatalities.


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