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Haptic Design - Steering Wheels

This project is under a lab at Michigan that has a plethora of resources... so I am incredibly thankful to be doing this. 
The entire premise behind this project revolved around Haptic shared control with level 3 autonomous driving. In layman's terms, how do we get the brain of the self-driving car to communicate with the brain of the person driving so that they can share the control of the car - work together.  

 

This communication channel is going to be done through passive and active touch. Passive touch is when you feel something vibrating in your hand, like your phone buzzing you, and you passively feel that impluse. Active touch is if I were to put something in your hand and tell you to get ready to throw it. In order to throw it, you would grip the object and your hands would actively search it to find the best corners for gripping and throwing. 

 

So, in a combination of both of these, the lab that I am working under wants to find a way to communicate from car -> person through touch validation on the steering wheel. I am the "builder in residence / come up with ideas" undergrad that sits by the 3D printer all day. 

First thing I started to do was test out various touch validations - in order to do this I built a simple Arduino circuit (see below) on a servo motor and tested out various materials on human hands / the responses from that.  I also toyed around with some varying volatages / resistance to see how I can change up the servo 

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The next thing I did was think of the use cases for this, nail that down into some hard level requirements documents, and find out what I wanted to communicate to the driver (and why). 

 

This actually required quite a bit of research and data because they were doing a current form of communication already that I was going to disagree with. 

 

The new thing to communicate would be: gut checking with your self-driving car. If I am in the car and the autonomous vehicle has control but I see cars up ahead stopping abruptly, I am going to think "does the car see those cars, should I take control".  I will have a similar reaction if someone is cutting me off, merging into my lane, or there is a car cutting into my lane. 

 

So, I decided I wanted to physically model those human gut reactions in the model of the steering wheel. I was going to create a steering wheel that had a number of movable sections like this: 

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When I started to build soft level prototypes like this one, I ran into some problems. 

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The torsion on the center shaft would be way too high, and that would cause some major problems for the moving around of those disks. So, then I completely scrapped that concept of building it and went back to the drawing board. 

I came up with this concept sketch - using universal joins (I am using the ones on the bottom of my swifter mop)  to connect each section together, rather than having it be one cohesive wheel. 

I am in the process of prototyping and CADing this sketch. 

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