Most cars are driven purely mechanically, however drive-by-wire technology is starting to make its way into the automotive sector. Many drivers are resistant to the change, especially with non-traditional controls such as a joystick; however, similar technology has been used in airplanes since the 1990s.
What is Drive-By-Wire?
Drive-by-wire uses electrical wires to control the car’s normal activities such as the throttle, braking, and steering. The upside of drive-by-wire systems is that they are lighter, have the potential to last longer (since moving parts cause most vehicle degradation), and significantly reduce the number of moving parts.
Drive-by-wire also involves the possibility of designing cars that could be controlled entirely with the hands (useful for many disabled drivers, who currently require expensive after-market mods added to their cars). A traditional throttle pedal can be controlled electronically via sending signals to the car’s onboard computer, the engine management system.
The primary benefit, as already mentioned, is the loss of many moving parts and their associated weight. The major drawback is that drivers tend not to perceive drive-by-wire as safe. The most significant concern is that the computer might malfunction; leading the driver to, for example, think they were applying more pressure to the brake pedal than they were. Brake failure, however, can also occur with a mechanical system.
What is Haptic Technology?
The word “haptic” is generally defined as something pertaining to the sense of touch. Humans have an extremely developed sense of touch, so “haptic technology” is a technology that makes use of the sense of touch. Specifically, it provides feedback through a person’s sense of touch. One example of haptic technology we are all familiar with is the vibrator on a cell phone.
Why Add Haptic Technology to Cars?
Haptic feedback is useful to drivers because their cognitive channels are already heavily loaded for visual and audio information. Think about it – when you are driving you are trying to keep track of the road and the other vehicles around you visually, perhaps listening to a verbal GPS (or a passenger) telling you where to go, dealing with the noisy kids in the back seat, etc. Touch, however, is used only for feedback from the vehicle itself. This means that there is more room for your brain to receive touch signals, which allows you to perform actions without diverting focus. Here are some examples of how haptic technology might be useful:
As drive-by-wire systems become more common, haptic systems may also. The space that is no longer being taken up by manual controls and hydraulics could be used to contain some of these advanced systems. The use of haptic actuators to improve the feedback provided by electronic driving controls could enhance drive-by-wire adoption and the applications mentioned above could all improve safety on the roads.
Johnson Electric sells premium quality solenoid and haptic actuators, for all-purpose as well as automotive needs. Contact us today to find out more about our seat and seat belt driver alert platforms, actuators for touch screen haptics, and similar products, available in varied sizes and acceleration profiles.