New af­ter­mar­ket adds-ons prom­ise safer driv­ing

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - BEN COX­WORTH

GER­MAN en­gi­neer­ing firm Hoff­man and Kripp­ner, in co-op­er­a­tion with Gut­ters­berg Con­sult­ing, has an­nounced a fa­tigue-sens­ing steer­ing wheel that can be added to any car to mon­i­tor a driver’s grip.

The tech­nol­ogy is based on the fact that when peo­ple drive and are rea­son­ably alert, they’re con­stantly ap­ply­ing pres­sure to the wheel and/or mov­ing their hands along it. If some­one should fall asleep, have a heart at­tack or oth­er­wise lose con­scious­ness, that pres­sure will lessen and their hands will move less.

The ac­tual de­vice con­sists of a thin strip of sen­sors de­vel­oped by Gut­ters­berg Con­sult­ing that is ap­plied to the in­side rim of a man­u­fac­turer’s ex­ist­ing steer­ing wheel, be­neath the leather (or other) cov­er­ing. That “Sen­so­foil” strip is made up of thin lay­ers of foil, that have a weak elec­tri­cal cur­rent run­ning through them.

When pres­sure is ap­plied and causes the lay­ers to touch one another, it cre­ates a short cir­cuit be­tween those lay­ers, much in the same way that a re­sis­tive touch­screen works.

A mi­cro­pro­ces­sor keeps track of the in­ten­sity, fre­quency and lo­ca­tion of those shorts, and uses it to es­tab­lish a typ­i­cal driv­ing pat­tern for the user. When they de­vi­ate from it sig­nif­i­cantly, the car will then alert them to wake up and pull over.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the sys­tem could be pro­grammed to fea­ture up to 10 “hot spots” on the wheel, which the driver could touch to ac­ti­vate fea­tures such as en­ter­tain­ment or com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­trols.

The com­pany states its wheel is less sen­si­tive to fac­tors such as dirt, sweat and tem­per­a­ture changes; it works even when the driver is wear­ing gloves; and it de­tects pres­sure changes in­cre­men­tally, as op­posed to all or

noth­ing.

Heads up! De­spite con­cerns that they may ac­tu­ally make driv­ing less safe, heads-up dis­plays (HUDs) could even­tu­ally be stan­dard equip­ment on most cars.

Along­side the HUDs of­fered by Garmin, Navdy and Head-sUP!, Cana­dian com­pany Iris is now also of­fer­ing a 720 p laser pro­jec­tion unit that mounts on the ex­ist­ing vi­sor bracket, which is joined by a pair of arms to a flip-down trans­par­ent screen.

Un­like the Hud­way app, which sim­ply re­flects the phone’s screen on the in­side of the wind­shield, the Iris uses a screen that fixes to the wind­shield, dis­play­ing data that’s pro­jected onto it while still al­low­ing a view of the street be­yond.

It also has its own vi­sor, which can be flipped down to serve the sun-block­ing func­tion of the car’s re­moved vi­sor when needed.

Us­ing an iOS/An­droid app, the user’s smart­phone can con­nect with Iris via Blue­tooth.

The de­vice can then do things like dis­play­ing in­com­ing call info or other mes­sages, dis­play­ing turn-by-turn GPS-guided di­rec­tions, or alert­ing users if they’re ex­ceed­ing the speed limit in their cur­rent ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion.

Its voice recog­ni­tion sys­tem also al­lows users to place hands­free calls, while its ges­ture recog­ni­tion tech lets driv­ers ac­cept or re­ject calls by swip­ing their fin­gers through the air in one way or the other.

Even if not synced with a phone, Iris can still com­mu­ni­cate with the car’s on­board com­puter to dis­play the cur­rent speed, fuel con­sump­tion, and other ve­hi­clere­lated data.

The Van­cou­ver-based de­sign­ers of Iris are now rais­ing pro­duc­tion funds on In­diegogo.

A pledge of $299 (R3 721) will cur­rently get you a unit, when and if they’re ready to go.

The planned re­tail price is $499. — Giz­mag.

PHOTO: SUPPLIED

A new fa­tigue-sens­ing steer­ing wheel from Ger­many works even if driv­ers wear gloves.

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