Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and AT&T Labs studying combinations of audio, visual and haptic feedback for route guidance found younger drivers in particular were less distracted by a navigation system's display screen when they received haptic feedback from the vibrating steering wheel.
And for older drivers, the haptic feedback reinforced the auditory cues they normally prefer, a Carnegie Mellon release reported Tuesday.
Vibrating steering wheels already are used by some car manufacturers to alert drivers to such things as road hazards, but the haptic steering wheel under development by AT&T can provide different pulsations to convey more information.
Twenty actuators on the rim of the AT&T wheel can be fired in any order, so firing them in a clockwise sequence could tell a driver to turn right, while a counterclockwise sequence could signal a left turn.
"By using these types of vibration cues, we are taking advantage of what people are already familiar with, making them easier to learn," AT&T researcher Kevin A. Li said.
The findings will be presented June 21 at the International Conference on Pervasive Computing in Newcastle, England.