Drivers Could Be Directed by Temperature of Steering Wheel

Technology currently being tested by Jaguar Land Rover could see steering wheels that heat up or cool down to help drivers turn left or right when visibility is poor.

Should the new technology be introduced, drivers would be provided with extra guidance when they are struggling during heavy rain or fog. It could also be used for less urgent notifications such as low fuel or points of interest that are coming up.

Jaguar says the system could be used to “inform drivers where to turn, when to change lane or to warn of an approaching junction” and could be beneficial if the road layout is confusing.

The technology can warm or cool one side of the steering wheel rapidly, by up to six degrees Celsius, (adjustable by the driver) as an alternative to on-screen directions, allowing you to keep your eyes on the road.

Smart steering

In some new cars, steering wheels are already ‘smart’, as they vibrate when drivers cross into a new lane without indicating, known as lane keeping assist. However, Jaguar says that warnings of this kind can be “unnecessarily attention-grabbing”.

There is also existing technology for heated steering wheels, a luxury feature to make driving in winter a more pleasant experience.

The technology comes at a time when concerns are growing that visible or audible signals from satellite navigators can cause distractions and accidents.

Latest figures from the Department of Transport show that there were 2,823 road accidents in 2017 caused by “distraction in vehicle”, a rate of almost eight per day. Amongst these figures were 459 serious injuries and 79 fatalities.

Eyes on the road

Temperature changes would produce a less distracting notification, says Alexandros Mouzakitis, from Jaguar’s electrical research group, who said “thermal cues” would “reduce the amount of time drivers have to take their eyes off the road”.

He added: “People readily understand the heating and cooling dynamics to denote directions, and the subtlety of temperature change can be perfect for feedback that doesn’t require a more intrusive audio or vibration-based cue.”

The ‘sensory steering wheel’ has not yet gone into production and is being developed as part of research with the University of Glasgow.

Jaguar predicts that similar technology could be used for self-driving cars, to indicate when it is safe for drivers to take their hands off the wheel and autonomous control is complete.


Spokesperson for First4Lawyers Andrew Cullwick says: “It’s great to see innovative new technology emerging, especially with so many road accidents caused by distracted driving each year. We hope that this will be a feature we will soon see (or feel) on our roads.” 

Further information

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