Entries in GPS (3)


The Next GPS: Vibrating Steering Wheel

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Even though GPS devices have come a long way technologically, we still need to listen and look at them to get where we’re going.  Much ink has been spilled over the obvious dangers of texting while driving, but what about the distractions presented by devices intentionally made for driving?  A GPS may guide you to your destination, but your brain has to process the information from it while you’re trying to get safely down the street.  Inevitably, it leads to sensory overload: You’re looking at the road, then back at the GPS, while at the same time listening to directions and maybe the radio as well. All while operating a vehicle that probably weighs 3,000 lbs. or more.

Kevin Li thinks he has a solution.  A researcher at AT&T Labs, he has devised a haptics-enhanced steering wheel that uses small motors to make the wheel vibrate, alerting drivers to upcoming turns.

On smartphones with haptic feedback, you feel minute vibrations when you touch the screen.  Similarly, Li’s prototype steering wheel contains 20 small vibration motors along the perimeter of the wheel, which vibrate one at a time in sequence to suggest when you ought to turn clockwise or counterclockwise.  When a turn is coming, you will feel a sweeping motion in the right direction.

By re-directing information from drivers’ sense of sight and sound to their sense of touch, Li says he hoped to cut down on the cognitive overload that ultimately leads to accidents.  Partnering with researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, Li found the wheel to be surprisingly intuitive among testers.

“For many people, when they first experience it, they don’t need any instruction on ‘This is a left, this is a right.’  They sort of just understand,” he said.

While the steering wheel is only a conceptual product at the moment, Li continues to refine and develop other ways to communicate with drivers contextually, by placing vibration motors in car seats, for instance.   ”The key behind the work is helping drivers drive safer without having to force them to think more about driving,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NYC Taxi GPS Leads to Return of Briefcase Containing $5,000

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There are 13,000 yellow cabs racing around New York City. So when James Dunne III realized he had left his briefcase containing $5,000 in cash, personal checks and valuable company documents inside a cab, he assumed he would never see it again.

But earlier that morning, Dunne had met Andrew Murstein, president of the Medallion Financial Group. It took Murstein less than an hour to figure out who Dunne’s cabbie was.

And fortunately, he was an honest cabbie and returned Dunne’s briefcase with everything in it.

Murstein’s sleuthing on March 14 made use of a GPS system being built into the taxis.

Murstein, whose company helps in the servicing of loans for New York City yellow cabs, figured by using the GPS, the Taxi TV in the cab’s back seat and credit card system data, he has a “good chance” of figuring out which of the thousands of cabs was in a particular place at a particular time. Dunne’s case was a little bit harder because he didn’t pay with a credit card, Murstein told ABC News.

For Dunne, an executive of the Sandler O’Neill financial firm, the briefcase was more important than the money in it.

“I knew right away about the money. I was curious why there was so much money, but I didn’t want to ask,” Murstein said. “He told me it wasn’t about the money, but about the other items.”

Murstein said people are always looking for help in tracking down taxi cabs because they left something behind.

“I get calls for all kinds of items. Everything from ‘a really ugly shirt that my mother-in-law bought me that I have to wear tonight when I see her for dinner’ to ‘a priceless picture of my grandparents.’  The most frequent item these days are iPhones or Blackberrys. People seem to not be able to survive without them,” he said.

The GPS systems in the cabs originally threatened to be controversial when the first ones were installed in 2007, with drivers fearing that their bosses or the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission would use them to keep track of them.

Murstein conceded that it could be used like that. “The GPS can be used to make sure a cab is going in the right direction and not giving a tourist a run around. It tracks the entire cab route,” he said.

However, Fernando Mateo, the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers spokesperson,  said the systems have provided a sense of safety for both passenger and driver.

Mateo said the systems have been used to aid police during armed robberies and provided taxi drivers with an extra sense of security.

“This is exactly what we wanted,” Mateo told ABC News. “Whenever you’re serving the public, people should feel safe when entering the cabs.”

Mateo says that in addition to briefcases, he has heard of violins and jewels being returned to their owners after being tracked down through the GPS system.

“When people come to New York, they know their public transportation is safe,” said Mateo, who said the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, had supported the use of the GPS systems. “And if anything happens, we can track it.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


OnStar Reverses Policy, Won’t Track Non-Subscribers

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images(DETROIT) -- OnStar, the service that connects to people’s cars by cell signal and can tell where they are if they have an accident, has now promised not to keep tracking people even if they cancel their subscriptions.

“We listened,” said OnStar’s president, Linda Marshall. “We hope to maintain the trust of our more than six million customers.”

OnStar stepped on a public relations landmine earlier this month by announcing some changes to its privacy policy. In a routine email to customers, it said it reserved the right to provide its traffic data to law enforcement, credit card processors and marketers. And it said that unless people asked, OnStar would keep tracking people’s cars even if they canceled the service.

Several senators piled on, expressing “serious concern” for people’s privacy; Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate.

OnStar said it wasn’t actually selling or sharing its data and had no plans to do so, but that wasn’t good enough. It has now revised the policy, promising that if people cancel their OnStar subscriptions, the cellular connection with their cars will automatically be disconnected.

“We regret any confusion or concern we may have caused,” Marshall said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio