Sat-nav reinvents the steering wheel

* System uses vibration to communicate * Could be used for safety tech, too * Reduces time eyes are off the road...

Sat-nav reinvents the steering wheel

A vibrating steering wheel could help prevent death and injury on the roads, according to research in the US.

The new steering wheel - under development by American telecoms corporation AT&T - is designed to cut distraction caused by using traditional in-car navigation systems that employ audio and on-screen instructions.

The system uses patterns of vibrations within the wheel to guide the driver; a clockwise pattern of vibration means turn right, while counter-clockwise means turn left.

Currently, the system is being used to concentrate on navigation, but other actions such as warning drivers of cars in their blind spot are also under development.

The system, known as haptics, has been found to be particularly effective when used with younger drivers. Tested on motorists with an average age of 25, the system helped to cut the amount of time their eyes were off the road by 3.1%

Another study also reported that drivers using haptics-equipped navigation made fewer wrong turns.

The research, carried out by Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, will be published in June.

Pete Barden