Jaguar Land Rover develops ‘sensory steering wheel’ to keep drivers’ eyes on the road

Jaguar Land Rover has developed a steering wheel that can rapidly heat and cool to pass instructions to the driver, so they don’t have to take their eyes off the road to check sat nav directions.

The technology, created in partnership with Glasgow University, aims to pass instructions to the driver through their hands. For example, heating the right side of the wheel indicates they should turn right at the next junction.

JLR says it could be particularly useful when visibility is reduced in poor weather or if the layout of the road is unclear. The wheel temperature can increase by up to six degrees and could also apply to the wheel-mounted gear shift paddles to instruct the driver of a hand-over in self-driving vehicles of the future.

The British car maker says its research shows these cues are less intrusive than vibrating or audio alerts, making them more appropriate for instructions where an urgent response is not required, such as a low fuel level.

Alexandros Mouzakitis, Jaguar Land Rover’s electrical research senior manager, said: “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.

“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 cue.”