New Cadillac Will Vibrate Your Ass When There’s Danger. No, Seriously

By March 29, 2012

Danger, Danger! High Voltage!

A number of new Cadillac automobiles will incorporate a haptic feedback system, though wealthy potential buyers may not appreciate being buzzed in the behind to warn them about hazards on the road.

The high-tech seat generates a vibrating pulse pattern, akin to some massage chairs, on the left or right side of the seat – sending a signal, to put it indelicately, directly to one or the other buttock – to warn of threats when driving or parking. Dangers to the front or back of the vehicle will be signaled by vibrating both sides at once.

“It’s akin to someone tapping on your shoulder in a crowd to get your attention,” said, General Motors technical fellow Raymond Kiefer, in a press release. “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 safety package will also incorporate automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, and collision preparation technologies in addition to standard safety precautions, such as air bags. The system will also incorporate oncoming collision, lane departure, blind spot encroachment, and cross traffic alerts, as well as adaptive lighting and a rear-view camera into the vehicles’ safety system.

The car will use a network of radar, ultrasonic sensors, and cameras to detect oncoming collisions, combined with an artificial intelligence system that incorporates user input. For example, the company noted the system will activate a lane departure warning only if the turn signal is not engaged.

And while it’s not exactly Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the cars will occasionally make safety decisions for the driver – another sign of the slow march toward self-driving automobiles.

“New technology in the XTS and ATS is intended to extend the vision around the car to help drivers identify obstacles,” said Cadillac vice president of marketing Don Butler. “When necessary, the vehicle may take action to help them avoid a collision.”

The company has also promoted the system as a step toward accessible design — or accessible, at least, to users who can afford a Cadillac.

“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 system will be available in the company’s XTS and ATS luxury sedans, and the SRX luxury crossover vehicle. The XTS, which is slated to enter production this spring, will be the first to hit of the selection to the road.

Images: Cadillac, Sue Peacock (CC-BY-SA)