GPS Equipped Steering Wheel?
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Summary: A vibrating steering wheel could help prevent death and injury on the roads, according to research in the US.
We live in an age of distracted driving and while GPS devices may be safer than gazing at a map while also trying to focus on the road, they’re still yet another thing to look at. Yes, there are audio cues, but who really enjoys being bossed around by an electronic voice as it continually says “recalculating” after you’ve willingly disobeyed its directions?
AT&T Labs is looking to solve both of these problems using haptic technology — vibration or motion used to communicate. Technology Review describes a prototype steering wheel created with 20 actuators that would give directions through different vibrating patterns. You only would have to know what the pattern means. For example, a clockwise pattern of vibrations means “turn right” and counterclockwise means “turn left.”
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.
While there is not a timeline for when or if this prototype would be implemented in vehicles, it is indicative of the push to make safer technology as it only becomes more and more prevalent in vehicles. Just last year, the National Transportation Safety Board called for a sweeping ban of electronic devices in vehicles — even hands-free sets — to cut down on distracted driving and associated accidents.
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