Right turn coming up...

Right turn coming up...

Tata-owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) says it is researching rapid heating and cooling of the steering wheel for use with turn-by-turn navigation and to help reduce driver distraction. The thermal feedback on the steering wheel could be used to assist the driver.

The company days that drivers not paying attention is a major contributor to road accidents and that the steering wheel developed by JLR uses heat to tell drivers when to turn left or right. Also, it claims thermal changes on the steering wheel could also be used to warn of approaching junctions and roads with poor visibility.

The research, in partnership with Glasgow University, 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 through poor weather or the layout of the road.

It says 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.

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 6oC. For comfort a driver could adjust the range of temperature change.

JLR also says 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, 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."

The Jaguar Land Rover-funded research is part of a PhD study undertaken by Patrizia Di Campli San Vito at Glasgow University as part of its Glasgow Interactive Systems Research Section (GIST).

Expert analysis

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