Keep your hands at 10 and 2 o'clock. Canvass your surroundings. Keep your eyes on the road. The basic concepts of driver's ed class still ring true today, but a lot has changed since high school. Not only are we tasked with paying attention to the road, but music, GPS and new on-the-go entertainment options have given us much to consider while driving. It's a cognitive overload.
AT&T Labs is taking strides to reduce the overload of distractions we experience in the car, and still get drivers safely to their destination. Researchers are currently working on a haptics-enhanced steering wheel to solve the distraction of navigational systems. The steering wheel prototype connects to the car's GPS system and is equipped with built-in vibrating motors to indicate upcoming turns and their proper directions - allowing you to feel the way to your destination.
"The idea is if we can transfer some of the information to the steering wheel and vibrate it in a way that users understand, then [drivers] can know when to turn left or when to turn right without really having to think about it," says AT&T Labs researcher Kevin Li.
No more staring at a tiny screen on the dashboard. No more second guessing the pronunciation of a street name. By providing a tactile warning for an upcoming turn, drivers can be more alert through their sense of touch.
"The steering wheel is great because it frees up the users' mental resources to be focused on the road, rather than forcing them to do one thing or another," says Kevin. "It augments their ability, by allowing them to be safer on the road."
We're working to solve the problems of today and tomorrow. Our researchers are real people who deal with the same issues common to everyone. We have the ability to combine everyday insights with the appropriate technology and take advantage of those common experiences, whether it's health and safety, communication or your daily drive home.
"I think a big part of [AT&T Lab's research] is not just taking a technology focus, but looking at things with a psychology perspective," adds Kevin.
Check out the video to see the haptics-enhanced steering wheel in action.