New ‘sensory’ steering wheel uses heat to give you sat nav directions

Jaguar Land Rover has developed a ‘sensory steering wheel’ which is said to benefit drivers when they go to turn or need directions. The steering wheel, which was developed in partnership with Glasgow University, heats and cools rapidly to inform drivers when to turn right or left. It apparently can also inform the driver of when to change lane on the motorway or warn of an approaching junction. One instance in which the steering wheel could be partially useful is when visibility is reduced due to poor weather or layout of the road.

The technology has also been applied to the gear-shift paddles to indicate when hand over from the driver to autonomous control in future self-driving vehicles is complete.

One of the reasons for the development of such technology is because distraction is a major contributor to road accidents around the world and accounts for 10 per cent of all fatal crashes in the USA alone.

JLR believes that thermal cues could be one method to keep drivers fully focused on the roads.

It works on other sides of the steering wheel and indicates the direction to turn by rapidly warming or cooling one side by a difference of up to 6oC.

Studies have shown that temperature-based instructions could also be used for non-urgent notifications, where vibrations could be deemed unnecessarily attention-grabbing, for example as a warning when fuel is running low, or for upcoming events, such as points of interest.

Alexandros Mouzakitis, Jaguar Land Rover Electrical Research Senior Manager, said: “Safety is a number one priority for Jaguar Land Rover and we are committed to continuously improving our vehicles with the latest technological developments as well as preparing the business for a self-driving future.

“The ‘sensory steering wheel’ is all part of this vision, with thermal cues able to reduce the amount of time drivers have to take their eyes off the road.

“Research has shown people readily understand the heating and cooling dynamics to denote directions and the subtlety of temperature change can be perfect for certain feedback that doesn’t require a more intrusive audio or vibration-based cue.”

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