EMEA: Steering wheels to save your life in the connected car
We’ve all had it happen. We’re driving along a boring stretch of road and start to doze off, and then suddenly realize and shake ourselves awake; or maybe we don’t and something horrible happens. Guttersberg Automotive has developed a sensor within the steering wheel that it claims is able to sense that your grip is loosening, a solution to help save lives when drivers enter a state of “microsleep.”
The technology utilized is a resistive sensor system. Between 0.8 millimeters and 0.9 mm thick, the sensor is mounted under the material covering the outside of the steering wheel and can include a mechanism for heating the steering wheel. While there also are capacitive systems available in the market, there are challenges with these solutions not present with a resistive sensor. With a capacitive system there is sensitivity to dust, dirt, sweat and temperature changes. They also do not work while wearing gloves – which could be a challenge in many parts of the world. Resistive systems work based on pressure and can sense movement more rapidly than capacitive systems that are linked to motion. This solution claims to recognize a change in pressure within 200 milliseconds.
Once you’ve got a smart steering wheel onboard, what comes next? This really depends on the auto manufacturer deploying the wheel and how it would like to integrate the wheel with its connected car safety and infotainment systems. On the safety side of the discussion there are varying levels of integration that could be deployed:
- Notification alarm to wake the driver or focus their attention.
- Linkage with semiautonomous functions to help steer the vehicle to ensure it does not depart from its current lane of travel or get too close to the vehicle in front of it.
- Linkage with autonomous functions to move the vehicle off of the roadway and bring it to a safe stop.
- Linkage with emergency responders and medical alerts – the solution could identify a medical emergency, notify the closest emergency facility and navigate the vehicle to that location for assistance.
Safety is the No. 1 priority, although infotainment integration is also possible. In other words, the ability to control these functions within the vehicle via the smart steering wheel, keeping your hands on the wheel while in motion.
Guttersberg said it’s currently in talks and in some tests with major OEMs, and the interest seems to be high. If you wonder what could come next or if this is a one-off solution; consider airliners. When I spoke with Denis Güzelocak, co-inventor of the sensor solution, he talked me through a scenario in which technology like this could help in an airline situation. At first I was skeptical, as most airliners are not flown via the yoke during the majority of the flight. The scenario he described was different. There could be a situation in which the pilot is queued to touch the yoke to acknowledge he or she is awake and in control of the airliner at certain intervals or if the air traffic controllers had some reason for concern. If this doesn’t happen, autopilot could take over and the aircraft could be maneuvered remotely. Another scenario is that a pilot is locked out of the cockpit and the individual inside has malicious intent toward the aircraft. The yoke could be disabled in order to keep the individual from taking control of the plane and overriding the autopilot.
I see a great deal of potential in the future for this type of technology to make a difference in saving lives on the road and in the air.
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Claudia Bacco, Managing Director – EMEA for RCR Wireless News, has spent her entire career in telecom, IT and security. Having experience as an operator, software and hardware vendor and as a well-known industry analyst, she has many opinions on the market. She’ll be sharing those opinions along with ongoing trend analysis for RCR Wireless News.