Jaguar Land Rover has developed a new steering wheel which can communicate with the driver using thermal signals. This ‘Sensory Steering Wheel’ helps reduce driver distraction and lets the driver keep his/her eyes on the road improving attention. Researched in partnership with Glasgow University has created a ‘sensory steering wheel’ in which certain portions of the steering wheel can be rapidly heated or cooled for use in conjunction with turn-by-turn navigation as it can notify the driver when to turn, change lane or warn about an approaching junction particularly when the weather is poor and the visibility is reduced.
Jaguar Land Rover’s research suggests that the thermal cues will help the driver maintain focus on the road and eventually eliminate distracted driving as it is one of the principal contributors to road accidents and account for 10% road fatalities in the USA.
The steering can be warmed up or cooled down to a difference of 6 degrees centigrade and the feature works on both the sides of the wheel. For example, to indicate a turn one side of the steering wheel, it can warm up rapidly while the other remains cool. The user can adjust the temperature change according to their comfort. The sensory steering system can be used to warn the driver about the low fuel level and other non-urgent notifications where a beep or a haptic type vibration could be too disruptive. Audio feedback is sometimes too attention seeking and could become irritating, if there is no option to turn them off.
A similar system has also been applied to the gear-shift paddles to denote the hand over from driver to autonomous control of the vehicle is complete.
Jaguar and Land Rover cars already feature a wide range of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and the new Range Rover Velar uses a new generation head-up display system and capacitive touch controls on the steering wheel for common functions to help reduce driver distraction.