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AT&T Labs and Carnegie Mellon develop GPS-enabled haptic steering wheel

Fri, 30 Mar 2012

AT&T Labs and Carnegie Mellon University have developed a new GPS-enabled steering wheel prototype that incporporates haptic technology.

For those who need a quick refresher, haptic technology is a feedback system that uses vibrations to provide alerts, for example vibrating mobile 'phones or your games console controller. Here the tech is used to alert drivers when navigation maneuvers are approaching, with the steering wheel syncing with GPS-enabled computer systems.

Over 20 motors deliver vibrations to the driver's hands, moving clockwise for right turns and counter-clockwise for left turns, while vibrations escalate as an intersection approaches.

A study conducted at Carnegie Mellon's Human-Computer Interaction Institute found that the steering wheel increases driver attentiveness – by 9 per cent with young drivers – but also does not appear to reduce navigation errors.

The only possible flaw we can see with this system is that it would only work efficiently if the driver has both hands on the wheel which, as we all know, doesn't always happen.

Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have used vibrating steering wheels in the past for both lane departure purposes and to notify drivers when they are veering out of their lane, but this is the first time haptic technology has been used for navigation purposes.

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By Rufus Thompson