Vibrating steering wheel will vibrate to remind you when to turn, instead of the annoying voice of the GPS, from AT&T Labs. They build a model of the device, the device can be programmed to vibrate clockwise, if you are supposed to turn right and counterclockwise if you are supposed to turn left. The device can also be programmed to help the driver to see his blind point.
The wheel’s 20 actuators can fire off in any pattern. And while the initial focus has been on improving delivery of GPS navigation instructions, other applications are under development, such as notifying drivers if cars are in their blind spots. The technology underlying these tactile cues is known as haptics.
A study of the gadget in driving simulators, by AT&T Labs researchers and collaborators at Carnegie Mellon University, found that it provided clear benefits: participants’ eyes stayed on the road longer. When younger drivers—with an average age of 25—used the haptic steering wheel along with the usual visual and auditory methods of receiving navigation instructions, their inattentiveness (defined as the proportion of time their eyes were off the road) dropped 3.1 percent.
That study did not find any benefit for older drivers, but a different one did. When haptics were added to auditory-only instructions, the inattentiveness of older drivers (above age 65) dropped 4 percent.
Overall, “by adding the haptic feedback we can lead to more attentive driving,” says SeungJun Kim, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon who participated in the study. The paper has not yet been published, but it will be presented this June at this conference.
An earlier study on car haptics that examined whether drivers accurately followed instructions—rather than whether they were distracted—also showed a benefit: haptics-equipped drivers made fewer turn errors. The work also builds on other research showing that listening to voices—whether from a dashboard GPS or a backseat driver—exacts a cognitive burden that detracts from driving attentiveness.