Jaguar Land Rover Researching a Sensory Steering Wheel to Keep Drivers Attentive

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【Summary】Forget about head-up displays or fancy displays in the instrument cluster, Jaguar Land Rover believes that rapidly heating and cooling specific sections of the steering wheel are better ways to provide drivers with directions.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    May 31, 2019 10:16 AM PT
Jaguar Land Rover Researching a Sensory Steering Wheel to Keep Drivers Attentive

The rapid beat of technology never stops. Take a peek at cars from the early 2000s, and vehicles that had in-car navigation systems were considered fancy. Now, even affordable cars come with head-up displays, touchscreens, smartphone integration, and advanced safety features. 

The goal with these things is to make driving less distracting, and doing things like navigating from one location to another less tedious. While everyone else is looking at high-tech systems to provide turn-by-turn guidance, Jaguar Land Rover believes the answer lies with the steering wheel.

Keeping Drivers' Eyes On The Road

High-end cars are now being fitted with digital instrument clusters that can clearly display one's route that has been programmed into the navigation system in a convenient place. Instead of having to shift your eyes to the middle of the car where the large screen is, you can just glance down for a quick second. Jaguar Land Rover doesn't want drivers to look anywhere but straight ahead, which is why it's testing a "sensory steering wheel."

In partnership with Glasgow University, Jaguar Land Rover is looking into coming out with a sensory steering wheel that can be quickly heated and cooled in specific locations to let drivers know of an upcoming turn. 

Rapidly heated and cooled refers to a change in temperature by 42.8 degrees Fahrenheit. By heating one side of the steering wheel, the vehicle is essentially telling the driver to turn right or left, but without any auditory or visual cues.

Jaguar Land Rover believes this super heated and cooled steering wheel could be useful on occasions when visibility is impaired. The fancy wheel could also be helpful when drivers are heading down a road they're not familiar with. Blind corners, regardless of what kind of technology you have in a car, are always difficult to deal with.

Applications In Autonomous Cars

Besides providing drivers with directions, Jaguar Land Rover sees its temperature steering wheel being used for non-urgent notifications. The automaker claims that audio feedback can be too disruptive, but heating a specific part of the steering wheel to remind the driver that they're running out of fuel isn't nearly as distracting. Thermal cues could also be used for points of interest or upcoming events.

In future applications, like for autonomous cars, the thermal technology could be applied to a car's gear-shift paddles. Unlike the steering wheel, those would tell the driver when the car has officially taken over all driving roles from the driver.

The steering wheel is a part of a research program with no planned applications. But it's another way that shows Jaguar is looking toward safe options. Jaguar's showcased The Green Light Optimal Speed Advisory that allows its cars to talk to lights so drivers know what speed to travel at when approaching a light or intersection. Then, there were the "virtual eyes" that the brand put on driverless shuttles as a way of warning pedestrians.

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