When the all-new Cadillac XTS luxury sedan begins production this spring, it will be the industry’s first car to use directional tactile sensation — vibrations of the driver’s seat bottom — to warn of crash threats while driving and parking.
The patented Cadillac Safety Alert Seat generates vibrating pulse patterns on the left and/or right side of the lower bolster to alert the driver of potential dangers, such as drifting from a traffic lane or toward nearby objects while parking. Threats from the front and rear trigger pulses on both sides of the seat.
“It’s good to see automakers experimenting with new technology to help communicate to drivers when their driving is about to get them into trouble,” said Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “We commend GM for their innovative use of haptic feedback and hope that drivers find it helpful.”
The system works in tandem with other visual alerts, and research shows that it can quickly and accurately focus driver attention to the direction of potential dangers.
“It’s akin to someone tapping on your shoulder in a crowd to get your attention,” said General Motors Active Safety Technical Fellow Raymond Kiefer. “Using the tactile sense to communicate crash threat direction provides an effective and intuitive way to cut through the clutter of visual and auditory sensory information that drivers routinely experience.”
The seats are part of the Cadillac Driver Awareness and Driver Assist packages, a combination of active safety systems designed to help drivers avoid crashes. The Driver Awareness Package, available for the launch of the Cadillac XTS this spring, includes Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
The Driver Assist Package, available this fall, also uses the Safety Alert Seat and features Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Collision Preparation, and Front and Rear Automatic Braking Systems. The Drive Assist Awareness and Driver Assist packages will also be available this year in the Cadillac ATS luxury sedan and SRX luxury crossover.
Kiefer noted that GM research shows that the seat may direct driver attention to the location of a crash threat more quickly and accurately than beeping alerts.
“Vibrating alerts also may help drivers who do not hear beeping alerts due to hearing loss or competing noises, and may be preferred by drivers and passengers who might be annoyed by beeps and shut crash avoidance features off,” Kiefer said. “The last thing we want is for drivers to turn off features with safety benefits.”
The Safety Alert Seat works with a variety of sensors and cameras installed in the car that help “intelligently” decide when to activate warnings. For example, if a turn signal is on, lane departure warnings are not presented.
Safety Alert Seat vibrations can be selected by the driver, via an in-vehicle menu, to replace the audible beeping alerts used across much of the industry. The seats also will be connected to the XTS Park Assist system and Rear Cross Traffic Alert system to help make parking in tight spaces easier.
Using exterior cameras, drivers can see the outside of the car along with dynamic parking guides on the eight-inch LCD screen, located on the center instrument panel. As the car backs up, the seat provides a few quick pulses to both sides of the seat when an object is first detected directly behind the car, and then provides repeated pulses when an object is closer. Meanwhile, the Rear Cross Traffic Alert system looks for approaching cross traffic behind the vehicle that is signaled with either left or right pulses to the driver.
“We feel customers will appreciate the intuitive elegance of the Safety Alert Seat, and more importantly, will appreciate the ‘good vibrations’ afforded by the features linked to this seat,” Kiefer said.