Jaguar Land Rover has developed a new steering wheel that is designed to allow drivers to keep eyes on the road and still get input from the navigation system. The steering wheel uses heating and cooling in conjunction with turn-by-turn navigation. The invention is called the sensory steering wheel.
The device can rapidly heat or cool to inform a driver of where to turn, when to change lane, or when to warn of an approaching junction. The same heating and cooling tech has been applied to shift paddles to indicate when the hand over from the driver to autonomous control will happen.
The goal is to reduce distractions behind the wheel, which statistics show contribute to 10% of all fatal crashes in the US alone. The thermal cues work on both sides of the steering wheel to rapidly warm or cool one side by a difference of up to 6oC.
Jag says that studies have shown temperature-based instructions can be used for non-urgent notifications where vibrations are deemed too attention-grabbing. Thermal cues can also be used in areas where audio feedback is deemed too disruptive to conversations in the car or media playback.
Jaguar Land Rover has given no indication that the heating and cooling function might come to a production vehicle in the future. The team insists research has shown that people readily understand the heating and cooling dynamics to denote driving instructions.
It’s not clear how effective the system is in areas with extremely high or low temperatures. Not having a loud navigation voice telling you where to turn could be a significant upside to many drivers.