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Researchers Develop a Vibrating Steering Wheel to Replace Your GPS

Carnegie Mellon University and AT&T Labs researchers develop a steering wheel that uses haptic feedback to relay driving directions.

When you're feel your steering wheel vibrate, It's usually because you are experiencing some frightening wheel-wobble in a real car or you are getting your money's worth from that force-feedback wheel you bought for Gran Turismo.

Now researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and AT&T labs are looking to bring haptic feedback to steering wheels in real cars as a way to help drivers navigate. Supposedly, the vibrating-wheel system will allow drivers to pay more attention to the road instead of listening for directional cues from a GPS voice or looking at the on-screen map.

MIT's Technology Review recently highlighted the steering wheel, which uses 20-vibrating actuators that are individually controlled. The prototype wheel can signal a left-turn by creating a counter-clockwise vibration pattern, or a right-turn with a clockwise pattern. The scientists also plan to use the vibrations for other applications, such as notifying drivers of cars in their blind spots.

So far, the driving gadget has proven to be effective in a study with participants using driving simulators. Young drivers with an average age of 25 were 3 percent more likely to keep their eyes on the road while older drivers above the age of 65 were 4 percent more attentive to road conditions. That may not seem like a huge improvement percentage-wise, but every little bit counts when it comes to reducing accidents caused by distracted drivers.

Be sure to check out Technology Review's article on the vibrating steering wheel and its interview with the researchers.

[Technology Review, The Verge via Electonista and Engadget / Photo: velkr0 on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]

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