How Chevrolet’s Safety Alert Seat Helps Drivers Avoid Crashes
Investment adviser Angela Cusmano is a road warrior who logs 25,000 miles a year to and from guiding clients through 401K allocations and other money matters. She says one of her best returns on investment is General Motors'-patented Safety Alert Seat.
“I am a very safe driver, but there are times when I’ve misjudged how quickly I’m approaching the car ahead or I’ve begun to move a bit out of my lane, and that seat gets my attention,” said Cusmano, managing partner of Dahring | Cusmano and Associates who lives in suburban Detroit. “It is more subtle, and I love it.”
In just two years, the available Safety Alert Seat has migrated from a General Motors’ luxury-exclusive feature to selected 2015 Chevrolet models (Silverado, Suburban, and Tahoe). It works with other collision-avoidance warning technologies in the vehicle to vibrate the driver’s seat bottom cushion if a crash risk is detected.
The Safety Alert Seat was designed to give customers like Cusmano an alternative to auditory alerts such as beeps, as well as to give hearing-impaired drivers an opportunity to experience crash avoidance system alerts. About one in five Americans (48 million) suffer some degree of hearing loss, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University.
Chevrolet’s Safety Alert Seat uses haptics, a tactile feedback technology that re-creates the sense of touch by using left and/or right “tapping” vibration pulses to direct the driver to the location of a crash threat. Similar technology is used in space and military applications.
“Using the tactile sense to communicate crash threat direction can help cut through the clutter of visual and auditory sensory information that drivers routinely experience,” says GM Active Safety Technical Fellow Raymond J. Kiefer.
“The best kind of safety protection we can offer are customer-focused features that help drivers avoid the crash altogether, and which are kept turned on for every trip,” explains Kiefer.
Here’s how the Safety Alert Seat works in a vehicle equipped with a lane departure warning system:
When the camera detects the vehicle is leaving a lane without an active turn signal in that direction, small motors generate a vibration pulse in the left or right seat bolster that directs the driver’s attention to the side of the lane encroachment.
When a vehicle is equipped with forward collision alert technology and the system detects the driver may strike the vehicle ahead, both sides of the seat vibrate. Drivers always can select beeping alerts instead of seat vibrations.
“Safety technologies are only as effective as customers’ willingness and ability to use them,” says Kiefer. “If the Safety Alert Seat encourages our customers to receive crash-threat alerts or gives hearing-impaired drivers an opportunity to experience such alerts, we think that’s good for them as well as other motorists.”