Jaguar Land Rover’s ‘sensory steering wheel’ uses temperature to send messages

We’ve had haptic feedback in steering wheels for years now, and it’s a great way to notify the driver of a lane departure or whatever without requiring them to stare at a visual alert. Now, Jaguar Land Rover is taking it one step further by bringing temperature into the equation.

Jaguar Land Rover this week unveiled its “sensory steering wheel concept.” Developed with the help of Glasgow University, the automaker is investigating whether using heating and cooling can alert drivers to less pertinent information. This wouldn’t replace haptic feedback, but rather it would create a lower-priority tier of messages with its own unique notification method.

Here’s how it works. Each side of the steering wheel can be heated or cooled by up to 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit, and the rate of change is adjustable to suit the driver’s preference. It could alert drivers of an upcoming turn in either direction, when to change lanes or if there’s poor visibility ahead. For things requiring much more pertinent notifications, like a lane departure, haptic feedback is still faster and more efficient for communication.

“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, JLR’s senior manager for electrical research, in a statement.

In the future, this system might have a hand in self-driving vehicles, too. The automaker said that it’s also adapted this temperature-shifting technology to work with gear shift paddles, which could inform a driver that the swap between human and computer control is complete.


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