By on May 30, 2019

With automakers perpetually promoting daft new technologies as a way to appease investors, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a new idea that made us take pause and wonder why nobody else had come up with it first. Fortunately, Jaguar Land Rover has done us a solid, with research help from Glasgow University, and delivered a “sensory steering wheel” aimed at giving drivers silent feedback through temperature variances.

The applications of the device are yet to be settled upon but JLR has suggested that the wheel could be used to notify the driver of less-pressing issues that don’t warrant an audible announcement or even offer silent turn-by-turn navigation. 

For navigation, JLR said the vehicle could indicate the direction to turn by rapidly warming or cooling one side of the wheel by a difference of up to 6o degrees Celsius. The manufacturer said this feature would be especially useful in low-visibility situations where speed is not a factor and a driver can’t risk taking their eyes off the road to check a map. As someone who almost never turns on audible directions, this author also believes the system could provide useful preemptive turning alerts that would lessen the need to check the map on a regular basis during normal driving as well.

Distracted driving is a real and seemingly growing issue but JLR feels that something like this steering wheel could be a useful tool in mitigating it. It claimed that 10 percent of all fatal crashes in the U.S. were the result of unfocused motorists and suggested that a heated wheel could be used to convey pertinent information in a less-jarring manner. While it suggested specific notifications, such as low-fuel announcements, datebook reminders, and alerting drivers to nearby points of interest, there really is no limit to how it could be used.

“Safety is a number one priority for Jaguar Land Rover and we are committed to continuously improving our vehicles with the latest technological developments as well as preparing the business for a self-driving future,” JLR Electrical Research Senior Manager Alexandros Mouzakitis said in a statement. “The ‘sensory steering wheel’ is all part of this vision, with thermal cues able to reduce the amount of time drivers have to take their eyes off the road … Research has shown people readily understand the heating and cooling dynamics to denote directions and the subtlety of temperature change can be perfect for certain feedback that doesn’t require a more intrusive audio or vibration-based cue.”

While this appears to be an evolution of Jaguar Land Rover’s earlier work with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, most of which previously dealt with haptic feedback, the sensory steering wheel would likely work in tandem with existing systems. JLR also said the technology could be applied to the gear-shift paddles to indicate when the handover from the driver to autonomous control in future self-driving vehicles has completed.

Honestly, the only real conundrum is figuring out how effective the feature would be during those cold winter months where you’ve already got the wheel set to maximum warmth. But the system is supposed to be able to tailor to individual needs, meaning it’d be up to you to suss that out. Regardless, we’re curious to see what this would be like in a production vehicle and hope Jaguar Land Rover pulls the trigger on this one.

[Image: Jaguar Land Rover]

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17 Comments on “Jaguar Land Rover’s ‘Hot’ New Idea: Sensory Steering Wheels...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    My car has more “feelings” then I do :(

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    60 degrees Celsius it quite a variance. If you’re comfortable now, adding or subtracting 60 degrees C will have you in pain. I’m dubious that JLR has ever installed upholstery that can shrug off a 60 C temperature change. Never mind that though. Wouldn’t something like Corvette’s HUD do a much better and more dependable job of relaying such information without being any more distracting?

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    My only gripe with audible cues for navigation is that the systems seem to think that it’s necessary to announce the same direction 5 times in 100 feet.

    As for the steering wheel: people would need to be reminded to keep both hands on at all times. I doubt that will happen.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      “people would need to be reminded to keep both hands on at all times”

      Bingo! Hand placement is all over the place. I’ve recently been working to get my wife to stay at 10 & 2. Most people get bored and move their hands all around on the wheel, having no idea that their safety relies on firm control over the tiller. Not to mention those that are too busy holding a latte in one hand and their phone, makeup, razor (yikes!), book (WTF?) in the other. How many ads do we see about lane keeping assist systems showing the wheel moving itself to ensure the car remains centered? This proves to me that most people only grip the steering wheel occasionally.

      Maybe the wheel should just get hot when something (anything) is wrong to notify them to look DOWN at the idiot lights. Oh out of gas? I didn’t even know!

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      …My only gripe with audible cues for navigation is that the systems seem to think that it’s necessary to announce the same direction 5 times in 100 feet…

      100% agree!

      I also wish that any map app, ANY, would provide a feature that enabled you to set a distance (1 mile, 2 miles, 5, miles) from your home where you won’t get turn-by-turn directions.

      Hey Waze, Google, Apple, OnStar, et al – I know how to get to the freeway from my house, thank you very much.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    “Distracted driving is a real and seemingly growing issue but JLR feels that something like this steering wheel could be a useful tool in mitigating it.”

    I disagree. If I don’t know why my steering wheel is heating up or getting cold, I will then wonder why…and seek a solution. That is another distraction. As such, this is conceptually flawed, and dangerous.

    • 0 avatar
      downunder

      So, you saved up enough to buy a new Jag/Land Rover with this feature as part of the options or standard features fitted to the car. It’s probably a big selling point advertised by JLR, and then you drive off and wonder why you steering wheel is getting hot/cold/vibrating?
      In the computer world it’s called RTFM, and then turn that option off.

      I swear that in the future people will need two licences, one to demonstrate that they understand and have undergone testing to ensure that they have knowledge all of the relevant road laws, and two, an operators licence just for that vehicle to demonstrate they they understand all of the controls and features of the vehicle. Unless car manufacturers go the Boeing/Airbus route and have a standardised set of controls so that when you move from vehicle to vehicle, everyhing is in the same place and functions accordingly.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    An electric shock would be far more effective, you know.

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    Sweaty palms to go with my white knuckles.

  • avatar

    What idiot came up with this idea? -60C to 60C variations? Not, thank you. I am not a pig or dog and prefer human voice and some nice graphics. And how it will work with semi and fully autonomous driving? Many people I know do not keep hands on steering wheel, because firstly there are better application for hands like browsing Internet and sending text messages and secondly no one enjoys being subjected to -60C to 60C variations both very painful. I remember when I lived in Russia and temperature dropped down to -40C it was not recommended to tough anything without wearing gloves.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Funny, cars made decades ago provided steering feedback, AKA “road feel”, to the driver without any computers or electronics. I wonder what happened to that mysterious technology?

  • avatar
    RHD

    This sounds dead in the water. Just because they thought of it and can do it doesn’t mean that they should. I’m all for innovation, but this isn’t the next Hot Cheetos.
    How about Matt Posky lives with this for a few months and gets back to us?
    The enthusiasm just might be a bit toned down by then.

  • avatar
    RHD

    This sounds dead in the water. Just because they thought of it and can do it doesn’t mean that they should. I’m all for innovation, but this isn’t the next Hot Cheetos.
    How about Matt Posky lives with this for a few months and gets back to us?
    The enthusiasm just might be a bit toned down by then.


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