A new way to reduce driver distraction?
Heated steering wheels are nothing new in luxury cars, but Jaguar Land Rover has taken this technology to another level with its new "sensory steering wheel.” Instead of keeping your hands warm on a cold day, Jaguar’s new smart steering wheel is designed to reduce driver distraction.
Developed in partnership with Glasgow University, the sensory steering wheel uses heating and cooling elements to inform drivers where to turn, when to change lanes, or warn them of an approaching intersection, which could be useful when visibility is reduced by poor weather or the layout of the road. This could help reduce accidents since a driver wouldn’t need to take their eyes off the road to look at the infotainment system for directions. The technology has also been applied to the gear-shift paddles to indicate when the hand-off from the driver to the autonomous systems in future self-driving models is complete.
According to Jaguar Land Rover, 10 percent of all fatal crashes in the US are caused by driver distraction. The automaker believes its research suggests thermal cues could keep drivers fully focused on the road. The sensory cues work on both sides of the steering wheel and indicate which direction the driver should turn by rapidly warming or cooling one side by a difference of up to 43 degrees Fahrenheit. For added comfort, the range of temperature change can also be adjusted.
Jaguar Land Rover says that heated steering wheel could also be used instead of vibrations for non-urgent notifications, such as a warning when fuel is running low, or to signal an upcoming event, such as a point of interest. Thermal cues could also be used instead of audio feedback that could disrupt cabin conversations or media playback.
"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,” said Alexandros Mouzakitis, Jaguar Land Rover electrical research senior manager.
"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,” he added.