If you do something wrong while you’re in a car, there’s a good chance some form of alarm, beep, buzz or honk from a passing motorist will let you know you goofed up. But now, Toyota is hoping that its steering wheel of the future could also alert you to any misdemeanours by vibrating or changing size.
According to a new patent filed by the Japanese car maker, Toyota is hoping to create expanding steering wheels that can shrink or enlarge if you make a mistake while driving. Specifically, the wheels will alert you if you aren’t quite in lane.
The patent, which has the rather catchy title of “Steering wheels having an adjustable coefficient of friction,” would see Toyota fit its cars with an array of sensors that monitor your driving. These would be hooked up to a mechanism within the steering wheel.
The steering wheel mechanism would be able to alter the “coefficient of friction between a surface of the rim and a driver’s hand.”
In practice, Toyota says this would mean that when turning a corner or merging onto another road, sensors would be able to detect if you have turned sufficiently to join the lane in a safe manner. If you have overshot the corner or not quite made it, the mechanism on the wheel would increase or decrease the diameter to alert you to the mistake.
As well as expanding and contracting, the high-tech steering wheels would also be able to emit an ultrasonic vibration to alert you to any driving mistakes.
This tactile feedback through the steering wheel would be in place of another random beeping noise that sounds without telling you what it relates to. And personally, I’m all for cutting down the number of annoying banging noises cars make.
But with so many cars peddling their own lane-keeping driver assist features, why just alert the diver to their mistakes, instead of correcting them?
Well, Toyota says this system has been developed as “it may be distracting to the driver of the vehicle to feel the steering wheel being pulled in a direction against the will of the driver.”
Furthermore, the firm warned that in response to an unexpected twist of the wheel, the driver may react in an unpredictable manner, further pushing the car out of lane.
As such, Toyota says the system was developed to alert the driver to any errors they may be making on the road, “without harming or distracting” anyone in the vehicle.
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