Active safety features are becoming old new in the car industry, but this one is a little unusual. It is designed to interact with the driver in a rather... intimate way. Its purpose is to be a constant reminder to the driver that there are other vehicles nearby. Specifically, it is intended to help the driver to remain aware of his or her blind spot. Designers have taken a very direct approach in this case.

Through the use of cell phone vibrating motors and linear actuators, they have created a seat that will give you a gentle nudge in the side, complimented by a subtle vibration, while you are driving. Sensors on the vehicle's exterior detect the presence of other cars in your blind spot, and trigger the seat to warn you of their location. A poke from the left side means someone is probably about to pass you in the adjacent lane. A poke from the right means it's not quite time to move in front of the car you just passed. Control of the vehicle is left completely up to the driver. The purpose of this seat is simply to let the driver

On the one hand, this device serves as an emergency warning. It will help you avoid blindly swerving into a busy lane, neglecting the necessary mirror check. At the same time, its presence is always known. The vibration is sustained, at all times, at a lower intensity. Only when blind spot interference is detected, will it shake harder, accompanied by the gentle push. John Murrel, Yale University Professor and the brain behind this project, believes the constant vibration and pressure will help drivers maintain an improved sense of awareness of their surroundings. He has chosen a tactile warning system over visible or audible cues because the touch system translates orientation information to the brain most quickly. The steps required for the brain to view an image (on the dashboard, for example) and translate that to a location outside the vehicle are left out, shrinking the amount of processing time required, and lengthening the reaction time window.

Pretty cool idea, but I'm fairly certain a vibrating driver's seat would put me to sleep in about 45 seconds. A seat that can apply concentrated physical pressure to a certain portion of a driver's body makes a lot of sense for keeping him or her aware of the vehicle's surroundings. How about a nudge right in the middle of the back when you're backing into a parking spot and you get too close to the car behind you?  It might even make sense for the seat to give a poke here and there on long trips, to help avoid sleepiness. Just a thought.

[msnbc]