Researchers Turn to Vibrating Steering Wheel to Shake Bad Driving Habits

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AT&T Labs and Carnegie Mellon University researchers have developed a vibrating steering wheel that they say can help drivers keep their eyes on the road and off of distracting GPS screens.

The steering wheel can actually complement audio and visual feedback, though more so for younger than older drivers. (Perhaps the younger drivers like that Wii remote-like vibrating feedback?) Younger drivers were found to take their eyes off the road 9% less of the time and older drivers took theirs off the road 4% less.

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The research in part is designed to find ways to improve older drivers' skills as the population of older drivers grows.

"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," said SeungJun Kim, systems scientist in Carnegie Mellon's Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII), in a statement. The findings will be presented June 21 at the International Conference on Pervasive Computing in Newcastle, England.

CMU and AT&T Labs note that vibrating steering wheels are already used by some car makers, but the ones in this experiment are more sophisticated. Twenty actuators on the rim of the wheel can be fired in any order clockwise or counterclockwise to cue the driver to steer one way or the other. Study subjects (16 drivers ages 16-36 and 17 over the age of 65) used the researchers' HCII simulator on a course that included traffic lights, pedestrians, etc., and researchers measured the subjects' attention and cognitive load in addition to physical response (heart rate, pupil size and so on).

General Motors, the National Science Foundation and the Quality of Life Technology Center sponsored this study.

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This story, "Researchers Turn to Vibrating Steering Wheel to Shake Bad Driving Habits" was originally published by Network World.

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