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ScienceShot: A Cure for the Distracted Driver?

27 September 2010 2:31 pm
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Nate Madeiros-Ward/University of Utah; (inset) William Provancher/University of Utah

You've got the car radio on, a cup of coffee in your hand, and you're talking on your cell phone. What you're doing isn't smart—and it's probably illegal—but a new device may at least prevent you from missing that important turn. The gadget, a small, moving knob on the steering wheel that's linked to a GPS navigator, moves slightly to the right or left anytime a car needs to turn. By keeping their index fingers in contact with the knobs, volunteers in a driving simulator stayed on accurate headings 98% of the time even while chatting on cell phones, the team will report tomorrow at the annual meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society in San Francisco, California. The researchers say the device could also help visually or hearing impaired individuals reach their destinations on foot, with knobs attached to their fingers guiding them straight ahead, or to the right or left. Likewise, the device could guide firefighters through smoke-filled buildings or alert air-traffic controllers to shift their attention to an item on their radar screens.

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