A new sensory steering wheel developed by Jaguar Land Rover, in conjunction with researchers at Scotland’s Glasgow University, can help motorists avoid distracted driving and subsequent accidents. The steering wheel components heat up and cool down to tell drivers where to turn, change lanes, and let them know when they are approaching an intersection. While the sensory steering wheel is useful in everyday driving, it is especially helpful when road conditions are bad or visibility is compromised, such as when driving in fog or snow. Jaguar Land Rover developed the sensory steering wheel partially to help keep motorists’ eyes on the road.
Distracted driving may prove responsible for as many serious accidents as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Distracted driving is responsible for approximately 10 percent of auto accident fatalities in the U.S. While the use of cellphones is the best-known example of distracted driving, anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road is a potential distraction. Other common causes of distracted driving include:
- Children or pets in the car
- Eating or drinking while driving
- Adjusting the radio or other vehicle devices
- Putting on makeup
While anyone may drive distracted, the practice is more common among teenagers and young adults for whom cellphone use is more likely a constant in their lives.
According to Jaguar Land Rover, the sensory steering wheel may deliver other cues to drivers besides road instructions. It can indicate low fuel and let drivers know about landmarks they may soon encounter on their routes. Currently, audio feedback, such as that used in GPS devices, guides drivers to their destinations. However, even such audio feedback or vibrations used in some vehicles may become a distraction for drivers, and the sensory steering wheel could replace much of it.
Will a Sensory Steering Wheel Make a Difference?
Because the technology is so limited, it is impossible to tell whether a sensory steering wheel will make a difference when it comes to distracted driving and accidents. If a driver already has a cellphone in one hand, they may not notice that the temperature on the steering wheel has changed. Researchers say the sensory driving wheel may help stimulate drowsy drivers, but there is also the potential to make drivers even sleepier. The sensory steering wheel is also part of Jaguar Land Rover’s efforts to develop autonomous vehicles.
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