Bridging the gap between comfort and safety, Yale University researchers have come up with a car seat that vibrates when there’s impending danger.
Particularly useful for warning you of cars in your blind spot, the vibrating seat will let you know that something is about to go wrong. John Morrell, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Yale, fitted a car seat with small cams and vibrating motors to provide a tactile warning.
Newer cars may be outfitted with blind-spot warning signals in the mirror or dashboard, but Morrell believes they aren’t effective because our visual senses already are overwhelmed. Adding to the issue is that the signal is in front of you and the threat is behind you, which increases the time needed to process and respond to the situation, increasing reaction time.
Of this invention, Morrell’s “renaissance user interface” uses the mind and body to the fullest.” The design was inspired by his work at Segway, where “every part of your body is coupled into the experience.”
This set up, called “The Open Racing Car Simulator,” includes a modified car seat, a steering wheel, foot pedals, and a computer running an open-source driving simulator. It’s rigged with 20 cell phone-motor tactors arranged in a rectangular array across the back of the seat. When a car comes up directly behind the driver in the simulation, center vibrators are activated, while a car to the right or the left will activate the same-side vibrators, which gives the driver a directional cue. The vibration becomes much more intense the closer a car gets. Adding to the signal strength are two cams on each that press on the driver’s rib cage when a car shows up on either side.
Early test results show “vibrotactile feedback” improved drivers’ performance, compared to the feedback received from just using a mirror.