Haptics is a relatively underexplored feedback modality in driving, as today’s cars mostly use visual and auditory cues when sending notifications to the driver. Haptics has the ability to communicate information quickly and intuitively, especially if it can tap into a reflex, without putting further load on the already heavily used visual and auditory sensory channels. The increasing autonomous functionality and advanced driver assistance systems of today's cars, as well as the loss of traditional road feel as vehicle mechanical components continue to be replaced by electrical systems, make increased driver-vehicle communication through haptic feedback an important area to explore.
In particular, lateral skin stretch is a promising form of haptic feedback because it conveys magnitude and direction information, creating a rich, analog haptic signal. Possible applications include:
- Safety systems such as collision avoidance, lane keeping, blind spot detection, and low traction warnings
- Navigation and trajectory planning
- Previews of autonomous car actions
- Driver training for trucks and heavy equipment
Skin Stretch Steering Wheel Display
A skin stretch steering wheel display prototype was built by embedding a large thin section bearing into a steering wheel rim. Actuation is provided by a small DC motor and lead screw mechanism.
The display produces lateral skin stretch in the driver's palms and possibly thumb pads depending on the grip, communicating direction and magnitude.