The study "doesn't mean it's safe to drive and talk on the cell phone," says co-author David Strayer, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah. "It was a test to show that even in situations where you are distracted by a cell phone, we can still communicate directional information to the driver via the fingertips even though they are 'blind' to everything else."
Provancher, Medeiros-Ward and Strayer conducted the study with Joel Cooper, who earned his psychology Ph.D. at the University of Utah and now works in Texas, and Andrew Doxon, a Utah doctoral student in mechanical engineering. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the University of Utah.
'Channels' Carry Information to the Brain
Provancher says the study was based on a "multiple resource model" of how people process information, in which resources are senses such as vision, hearing and touch that provide information to the brain.
"You can only process so much," he says. "The theory is that if you provide information through different channels, you can provide more total information. Our sense of touch is currently an unexplored means of communication in the car."
But does humanity really need yet another way to provide information to drivers who already are blabbering on cell phones, texting, changing CDs or radio stations, looking at or listening to navigation devices and screaming kids not to mention trying to watch and listen to road conditions?
"The point is, it will help everybody," Provancher says. "We all have visual and audio distractions when driving. Having the steering wheel communicate with you through your fingertips provides more reliable navigation information to the driver."
Provancher says motorists already get some feedback thro
|Contact: Lee J. Siegel|
University of Utah