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Will Vibrating Steering Wheels Make For Safer Roads?


Steering Wheel - 2011 Volvo XC90 FWD 4-door I6

Steering Wheel - 2011 Volvo XC90 FWD 4-door I6

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Of the five senses that the human body is equipped with, sight and sound are the primary ones used behind the wheel of a car. You could argue that touch comes into play as well, since most vehicles now come equipped with steering-wheel-mounted audio, telephone and cruise control buttons, too.

That said, touch isn’t a primary sense required for driving, but scientists at AT&T Labs, working with Carnegie Mellon University, may look to change that. According to Technology Review, researchers are incorporating haptics, or touch-based feedback, into navigation systems with positive results.

The system is simple, in concept at least. If a left turn is approaching, drivers will feel a counter-clockwise vibration through the steering wheel. A right turn would be indicated by a clockwise pulse through the steering wheel, and different signals could even be used to warn of cars in a blind spot or slowing traffic ahead.

Ultimately, the goal is to create drivers that are less distracted behind the wheel. Even voice commands (from a navigation system, for example) can be distracting, but touch-based information appears to be less so.

In fact, one study showed that drivers given haptic navigation instructions with accompanying voice commands made fewer wrong turns that drivers guided by voice alone.

If there’s a downside, it’s this: the current research shows an improvement of 3.1-percent in attentiveness, but only for younger drivers with an average age of 25. The study showed no benefit for older drivers, which goes counter to the navigational study cited above.

More research is necessary, and it’s unlikely that haptic interfaces will find their way into cars of the near future. Longer term, such feedback may prove worthwhile to implement, as long as researchers can develop a standardized system that users understand without formal training.
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Comments (5)
  1. it wont work full stop. what with the state of our roads there will be people turning into hedgerows, lamp posts and other cars left right and centre because the steering wheel told them with a bump that a turn was coming up !

    and yes alot of drvers are that bad that they woudl do that !
     
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  2. It's far more important to track where the driver is looking at, than to create even more distractions on their hands. There has been such equipment available from Mercedes Benz to ask the driver to take a break if the sensors confirm the driver is not blinking their eyes frequent enough. Eyeball tracking would be possible in this aspect to help prevent wrong turns.
     
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  3. @ Frank, id love to see what the system does when your eyeballs are tracking the boxum beauty waiting at the bus stop hahaha
     
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  4. "Eyes on the road, kid!" Said the vehicle computer.
     
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  5. as a mechanical hand come out of the steering wheel and slaps you across the face
     
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