6/22/2012 | 1 MINUTE READ

Navigation Can Benefit from a Shaking Steering Wheel

Facebook Share Icon LinkedIn Share Icon Twitter Share Icon Share by EMail icon Print Icon

Haptic steering wheel developed by AT&T Labs and Carnegie Mellon University studies driver distraction levels.


Facebook Share Icon LinkedIn Share Icon Twitter Share Icon Share by EMail icon Print Icon

Ordinarily, pulsations in a steering wheel indicate that there is a problem with the suspension, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (cmu.edu), working with a haptic system co-developed with AT&T Labs (research.att.com), have determined that deliberately sending pulses through a steering wheel—using actuators embedded in the rim—can help improve driver performance in following directions provided by navigation systems, thereby reducing driver distraction.

A study using combinations of audio, visual and haptic feedback for route guidance, found that younger drivers—there were 16 drivers between ages 16 and 36—were less distracted by a navigation system’s display screen when they received haptic feedback from the vibrating steering wheel. For older drivers—17 drivers 65 and older—the haptic feedback reinforced the auditory cues—as in the robotic voice saying things like “Turn right ahead”—they normally prefer.
While the haptic steering wheel generally improved driver performance and safety, the study findings suggest that giving the driver additional sensory input isn’t always beneficial. That’s particularly the case for older drivers because the additional feedback can strain the brain’s capacity to process it, resulting in sensory overload (not exactly what you want when someone is behind the wheel of a car). 
“Our findings suggest that, as navigation systems become more elaborate, it would be best to personalize the sensory feedback system based, at least in part, on the driver’s age,” says SeungJun Kim, systems scientist in Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII).
The researchers found that the propor-tion of time a driver’s eyes were off of the road was less with the combination of auditory and haptic feedback than with the audio and visual feedback typical of most conventional GPS systems – 4% less for elder drivers and 9% less for younger drivers. 
When there were instructions via voice, on the nav screen and vibrating steering wheel, there was not an eyes-on-the-road benefit for older drivers. Self-reports showed older drivers favored audio feedback while younger drivers relied more on visual feedback.
Hand holding a crystal ball

We’d rather send you $15 than rely on our crystal ball…

It’s Capital Spending Survey season and the manufacturing industry is counting on you to participate! Odds are that you received our 5-minute Metalworking survey from Automotive Design and Production in your mail or email. Fill it out and we’ll email you $15 to exchange for your choice of gift card or charitable donation. Are you in the U.S. and not sure you received the survey? Contact us to access it.

Help us inform the industry and everybody benefits.


  • BMW and Toyota and FMCW Lidar

    This is not a piece of modern art: Rather, it is an image from Blackmore Sensors and Analytics of Bozeman, Montana, micro-Doppler signatures of pedestrians (or maybe that’s a pedestrian, singular) walking (see it now?). Blackmore is a company that is developing FMCW lidar.

  • 2015 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler

    The thing about the Wrangler Willys Wheeler: It is a toy for a grown-up boy.

  • The 2017 Kia Sportage

    Kia Motors America COO and executive vice president says this crossover is “crafted for the urban pioneer.” And it is designed and engineered for competing in one of the hottest segments in the overall auto market.