Society of Automotive Engineers Competition 2016

The problem: Studies have shown that most people use cell phones and other electronics while Distracted driverdriving. Distractions like this put the driver and others at risk of injury or death. The Center for Disease Control classifies driving distraction as as visual, manual, and cognitive. So it makes sense that the danger of distraction is especially associated with hand held device, interacting with electronics and reaching into the cabin.

The search for solutions:  Being able to use our electronics and drive safely would be a big advantage and selling point of the autonomous or semi-autonomous car.  New technologies provide safeguards that are helping us move in that direction, including…

  • Emphasis on hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
  • Collision Warning Systems
  • Improved human machine interfaces
  • Voice
  • Gesture
  • HUD
  • Steering wheel modification.

Steering wheel evolution:  Over the years, more buttons and toggles have been added to the driving wheel evolnsteering wheel. However, there is a relative lack of development in optimizing the tactile feel of these controls to make the manipulation of the buttons and toggles easy.

The haptic steering wheel:  Our solution is to further the above trend and put keys that are recognizable by touch on the steering wheel so that the driver does not need to look away from the road to make electronic selections from digital items. We anticipate that doing this will make selection of these controls faster, more accurate, and less distracting. The paradigm is that the car is not only a transporting machine – it is also a computer with computer displays and keypads. This concept exemplifies the integration of machine and biology. Traditionally, it is the manual connection that bring human and machine together.

Our solution consists of touch recognizable or haptic keys, Menus of items that are generated by a programmable database, Icons beside each menu item that corresponds to the feel of each key.

The images below are illustrative not literal and use colorful shapes for clarity. Controls on the steering wheel are recognizable by touch because of their shapes, protrusions, depressions, or temperatures. To minimize distraction and achieve the goal of “hands on the wheel, eyes on the road”, we advocate haptic keypad on the wheel and computer display on or near road view (with additional safeguards to reduce distraction risk further).

  • Menus of items are presented in a way that preferably keeps the driver’s gaze on the road but the invention pertains to any computer display.
  • Icons beside each menu item guides the drier’s selection of controls by the way they are felt on the steering wheel.

haptic driving 1

The driver could use his or her thumbs to select many options quickly. If there were 10 options and each option was programmed to open a different menu, 2 clicks would result in 100 choices, and 3 clicks a 100 choices. Selections would be quick after the driver becomes familiar with menus that are used routinely.

For example, say you wanted to call your mom. You would recognize that the star icon is
associated with phone and would select the button that felt like a star with your left hand.

This action would prompt the display of another menu. A triangle would guide you in the selection of the triangular shaped button and the call to your mom would be initiated.haptic driving 2

This could be a lot easier than initiating a voice recognition system, saying the command, computer processing of the request and verification of accuracy, especially if there is noise in the cabin.



Heads Up Display Options:  The computer display can be a projection on the cars windshield
or a smart screen  built into the dash that is present in most car models.

HUD options









SofTrek’s patents have the following elements:

1.Haptic buttons on a keypad or smart screen.patent pic

2.Database generation of menus.

3.Correspondence between menu items and button tactile properties.

4.Selecting menu items accesses data in a database.

5.Selecting menu items may prompt the display another menu in the same or another database.

The patents are not specifically automotive. This presentation is adaptation of these elements to a car, but could be applied to other vehicles civilian, commercial, industrial or military on land, sea, or in the air, especially when ambient noise and other factors make voice control of the vehicle’s electronics difficult.

Comparison of Different Human Machine Interfaces: Using haptic steering wheel buttons or
controls has many advantages that complements other human machine interfaces. These include eyes on the road, hands on the week, being unaffected by cabin noise and breathing. Simple muscle movements are involved and processing is instant.

comparison pic










Our goal: 

  • License IP.
  • Research benefits of our model.
  • Find and create partnerships for prototype development,  synergistic technologies, market implementation.

Value proposition: is a broad patented solution that

  • helps keep driver’s hands on wheel and eyes directed forward.
  • uses the sense of touch to facilitate driver interaction with a vehicle.
  • may contribute to driver safety and driving enjoyment.
  • uses database software to prompt different electronic events when a menu item is selected.
  • Supports the trend of placing more controls that can be recognized using the sense of touch on the steering wheel and can be combined with other safeguards to enable driver autonomy in the evolution of the driverless car.

letterhead sm hd pic



Share This: