Jaguar Land Rover’s hot and cold steering wheel tells you when to turn

Published: 30 May 2019

► Used for sat-nav to low fuel
► Can change the temps by 60 degrees Celsius
► In association with Galsgow University

As cars get smarter, manufacturers are looking at ways of more easily communicating with the driver – and nowJaguar Land Rover has come up the weirdest solution yet. JLR and Glasgow University h with a steering wheel that uses temperature warn drivers about everything from satnav directions to obstructions in the road.

How does it work?

The steering wheel is able to apply a difference of 60 degrees celsius to either side, thereby instructing the driver to turn left or right. JLR hasn’t set if hot or cold means turn, though – and does tepid mean straight on?

‘The ‘sensory steering wheel’ is all part of this vision, with thermal cues able to reduce the amount of time drivers have to take their eyes off the road.’ said Alexandros Mouzakitis, JLR’s electrical research senior manager.

Find out about the different levels of autonomous technology here.

‘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.’

We have reservations on using temperature to rapidly suggest when to turn doesn’t seem like a great idea, but JLR says it could be used for less urgent notifications too – and this is where we think it’ll actually be useful. For example, low fuel, upcoming events or points of interest could all use the system.

Why not vibration?

JLR says vibration could be too disruptive or attention grabbing for drivers, while audio cues can disrupt cabin conversations – or worse still, music. The temperature issue doesn't have many of those drawbacks.

Is this coming to production?

Probably not, but it’s interesting to see just how bothered car makers are with notifications in 2019. Autonomous cars are on the way, and the issue of handing back control is one that has no solid solutions right now.

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast