March 28, 2012 at 9:42 AM ET
It’s something a good race car driver is expected to do, using the subtle cues a car gives while racing around the track to push to the limits. But now, even an average driver will be able to drive by the seat of their pants in Cadillac’s new flagship luxury sedan.
The General Motors luxury division is introducing a suite of new safety features for the new 2013 Cadillac XTS luxury sedan, which is slated to go into production this spring, including an industry first using the driver’s seat to alert a motorist to threats while driving or parking.
The patented Cadillac Safety Alert Seat generates vibrating pulse patterns in the lower bolster to alert the driver to 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, while the seat, while the seat can vibrate on the left or right to signal the direction of a problem, GM engineers said as they demonstrated the new equipment at the General Motors Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan.
“It’s akin to someone tapping on your shoulder in a crowd to get your attention,” said GM 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 system works in tandem with other visual alerts, and extensive field research by GM’s human factors experts shows that it can quickly and accurately focus driver attention to the direction of potential dangers.
“We commend GM for their innovative use of haptic feedback and hope that drivers find it helpful,” said Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety,
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 at 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, which follows by autumn, also uses the Safety Alert Seat and features Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Collision Preparation, and Front and Rear Automatic Braking Systems to stop the car under some conditions such as if the driver is about to hit a post while backing up.
The Drive Assist Awareness and Driver Assist packages will also be offered this year in the new Cadillac ATS compact luxury sedan and the SRX luxury crossover, said Don Butler, general manager of Cadillac marketing.
Butler said Cadillac hasn’t priced the new safety options. But he said they will be packaged with Cadillac’s new CUE system and an updated navigation system that is required to make the safety systems work.
According to Kiefer, 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.
“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.
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