Touch-screen steering wheel keeps drivers focused on the road

June 6, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier, report

Touch-screen steering wheel keeps drivers focused on the road
The multi-touch steering wheel hardware. Image: Tanja Döring et al.
( -- A team of researchers from the University of Stuttgart, University of Duisburg-Essen and the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence have created a prototype automotive steering wheel that uses a touch screen to enable the driver to control things such as the radio or navigate a map without having to take their eyes off the road.

With the numerous such as mobile phones and texting, the need to keep drivers focused on the road is the idea behind the development of this steering wheel. With standard vehicle controls being behind the steering wheel or in the center console, making changes requires the driver to look away from the road. Albrecht Schmidt, a computer science professor who worked on the project believes by creating gesture-enabled steering wheel, drivers will be able to spend more time focused on the road.

The steering wheel is made out of 11 millimeter thick acrylic that is ringed with infrared LEDs. There is an that is attached to the bottom that detects reflections when the screen is touched. Gestures can be made on the screen without the driver ever having to take their hands off the steering wheel.

To create the prototype, researchers asked participants what movements and gestures they currently used on technological devices in order to create the gestures for some 20 commands. Gestures such as pinching two fingers in order to zoom or tracing out the first letter of a command are some that have been included.

Once they had established all the different general commands and gestures, the researchers then had participants test the in a simulator. The data from the study shows that the new prototype was able to substantially reduce the amount of time a driver needed to take his eyes off the road.

Down the road, they believe the technology could include things such as the ability to project information directly onto the windshield as well as a designed to check road conditions and traffic and alert a driver to stay focused on the road.

The prototype was presented at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems and the researchers are currently speaking with automotive companies to look at the possibility of getting this technology into vehicles in the near future.

Explore further: Lane departure warning systems help drowsy drivers avoid crashes

More information: Research papers are available here and here.

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5 / 5 (1) Jun 06, 2011
I just.. oh forget it. http://www.youtub...2jOlQY7E
not rated yet Jun 06, 2011
Why can't we just have a HUD like the fighter pilots.
I known, cost too much but sooner or later it will be cheap enough.
4.5 / 5 (2) Jun 06, 2011
If you're looking at your steering wheel to navigate a map, then you are not looking at the road, you are looking at the steering wheel. What's so difficult to comprehend about the fact that looking at anything but the road while operating a several thousand pound steel cage on wheels is irresponsible? This is a statistically significant point given the growing population densities of the areas we frequently traverse in our vehicles, and hence a growing chance that we will run into someone wherever we go. One cannot assume that everyone else will obey the "rules of the road"- that is the entire point o defensive driving- a child or a dog or a blind person could walk into the road at any time, and from experience I can tell you that they do. Pull over and read the map. Listen to what your environment is telling you- every sensory perception which you can get is useful when operating a vehicle- the music can wait until you get home unless you are in a traffic jam. Many collisions occur just after cars are freed from a traffic jam because the driver's minds are still distracted. Concentrate, Grasshopper!
5 / 5 (2) Jun 06, 2011
I don't want to pay ANY attention to the road. I want the car to do it for me.

Robotic cars are already operational, just ask Google how well they work. When oh when will we realize that people just stink as drivers?
not rated yet Jun 06, 2011
What's so difficult to comprehend about the fact that looking at anything but the road while operating a several thousand pound steel cage on wheels is irresponsible?

That's a little extreme Dave. Staring at the road suggests tunnel vision. Glancing at surroundings, checking mirrors, and performing shoulder checks are necessary actions that require you to take your eyes off the road. Just staring at the road is much more dangerous. It's dangerous not to be aware of your surroundings.

There's a difference between focusing on driving and staring at the road.
not rated yet Jun 06, 2011
Robotic cars are already operational, just ask Google how well they work. When oh when will we realize that people just stink as drivers?

It will be a LONG LONG time. Not until we do something about the corrupt Insurance system we have in place here in the USA.

Insurance companies will never allow for driver less vehicles due to the "Fault" issue. Who pays for the damage in the inevitable accidents between automated and human drivers. Who will pay for the costs of an accident between two automated drivers?

'Crashes will never happen' is not a possibility; even Linux crashes once in awhile.
not rated yet Jun 06, 2011
Robotic cars would be like green cars...until they show a substantial demand enough to replace the gasoline driven car, the car companies won't undercut their profits. They'll keep producing both. It's why a hybrid still costs as much if not more than a gasoline car, and thus the gas savings are practically negated over the life cycle.
not rated yet Jun 06, 2011
How is this an improvement on the steering wheel?
not rated yet Jun 07, 2011
Yes vey very good.
5 / 5 (1) Jun 08, 2011

Fault would be easy, just sign a form that says you take full responsibility for the malfunctions of your car. If these systems are safe enough for people to entrust their lives to them, I'm sure they'd feel alright about accepting responsibility. Engineered redundancy and failsafes can be orders of magnitude safer than the best human driver.

Accidents will almost always happen when human error is involved (dumbass running stop sign etc...)and in that case it's not your fault anyway.

I think the biggest problem is for people to think rationally instead of emotionally and accept that they are the safer option in the first place.

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