Getting warmer: Jaguar Land Rover's new steering wheel uses heat to guide you

Sensory steering wheel
Image credit: Jaguar Land Rover

Jaguar Land Rover has come up with a novel solution to the problem of distracted drivers: a 'sensory' steering wheel that changes temperature to tell you when it's time to turn.

Heated steering wheels have been around for years, making driving in winter a much more pleasant experience, and JLR's wheel uses the same technology, rapidly heating and cooling to provide an alternative to on-screen directions that allows you to keep your eyes on the road.

Whereas some of JLR's recent innovations have been a little wacky (self-driving pods with googly eyes come to mind), the sensory steering wheel (created in partnership with Glasgow University) is a practical solution to a serious problem.

According to the United States Department of Transportation, distracted driving is responsible for 10% of fatal car accidents in the US, and there's a danger that modern cars (which are sometimes fitted with huge infotainment screens in preparation for fully autonomous driving) could worsen the problem.

A new direction

Spoken directions aren't helpful in noisy situations, and JLR's research has found that making the wheel vibrate can be too attention-grabbing.

"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," said Alexandros Mouzakitis, Jaguar Land Rover electrical research senior manager.