A steering wheel developed by Jaguar Land Rover could help keep drivers’ eyes on the road – by using heat to tell drivers when to turn left or right.
As part of a research project being conducted in partnership with Glasgow University, the OEM has created a ‘sensory steering wheel’, parts of which can be quickly heated and cooled to inform drivers where to turn, when to change lane or to warn of an approaching junction. This could be particularly useful when visibility is reduced due to poor weather or the layout of the road.
For future self-driving vehicles, the technology has also been applied to the gear-shift paddles to indicate when handover from the driver to autonomous control is complete.
Jaguar Land Rover’s research suggests thermal cues could be a way to keep drivers fully focused on the road. The cues work on both sides of the steering wheel, indicating the direction to turn by rapidly warming or cooling one side by a difference of up to 6°C. For comfort a driver could adjust the temperature change.
Studies have shown 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. Thermal cues can also be used where audio feedback would be deemed too disruptive to cabin conversations or media playback.
Alexandros Mouzakitis, senior manager of electrical research at JLR, 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.”
The Jaguar Land Rover-funded research is part of a PhD study undertaken by Patrizia Di Campli San Vito at Glasgow University.