AT&T vibrating steering wheel

AT&T Labs, Carnegie Mellon reveal vibrating GPS-enabled steering wheel prototype

Vibrating steering wheel could help drivers navigate the road, while avoiding the distractions associated with a typical GPS.

With the rise of distracted driving in mind, AT&T Labs and Carnegie Mellon University have just developed a new and innovative GPS-enabled steering wheel with haptic technology. For those unfamiliar with haptic technology, it is a tactile feedback system that employs the use of vibrations. Whether they know it or not, every cell phone owner utilizes haptics on a daily basis via their phone’s vibration system. Specifically, AT&T’s new steering wheel prototype utilizes vibrations to alert drivers when to turn the wheel. Unlike a typical GPS system that averts the driver’s eyes from the road, the haptic system alerts drivers of upcoming maneuvers via vibrations, which does not require looking away from the road.

Though still in the prototype stage, AT&T Labs has released detailed information on how the product operates. The steering wheel is synced with a GPS-enabled computer system and contains over 20 motors that deliver vibrations to the driver’s hands. So how exactly do the vibrations work? Well, the vibrations operate in a pattern system: clockwise for right turns and counter-clockwise for left turns. Additionally, vibrations will escalate when drivers approach intersections. The wheel’s haptic system takes the place of the old GPS standard of receiving vocal instructions. Kevin A. Li, AT&T Labs researcher described the process to CNN by stating, “Drivers get this intuitive sense of which way to turn. Users don’t really have to think about it. They just get it.”

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