Vibrating Steering Wheel Alerts Drivers In Bright-Light Conditions
Just as some cars' seats vibrate when another car is in the driver's blind spot, the wheel uses GPS and sensors to alert drivers who may be experiencing temporary bright light blindness.
Kecia Lynn has worked as a technical writer, editor, software developer, arts administrator, summer camp director, and television host. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is currently living in Iowa City and working on her first novel.
What's the Latest Development?
University of Nevada-Reno scientists Eelke Folmer and Burkay Sucu have designed a prototype of a steering wheel that uses GPS and lane-keeping cameras to sense when a driver may be temporarily blinded by sun or snow glare and vibrate directionally. For example, "if a driver drifts left, the left side of the wheel will vibrate - a signal to steer right until it stops vibrating, just like a rumble strip." In tests involving a simulator, the system worked so long as the drivers' hands stayed on the parts of the wheel containing the vibrators. This showed the need to distribute the vibrators more widely around the wheel in order to compensate for different "holds."
What's the Big Idea?
Paul Newman, a car designer at the University of Oxford, says it makes sense to build the system into "the very place action is required" when potential danger approaches. The vibrators are tuned to a skin-sensitive 275 hertz, and Folmer says that thanks to the sensors, "[i]t's fairly easy for the system to anticipate or sense glare conditions and activate itself."
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