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We’re starting to see a lot of car gadgets and apps designed to make us better drivers. Automatic, Zubie, Dash, Mojio and Zendrive all have built mechanisms to monitor our braking and acceleration and warn us when we’re driving a bit too recklessly.
But a new Kickstarter project called Jeane goes beyond the audio alerts generated by plug-in gadget or smartphone and brings those warnings directly to the steering wheel in the form of haptic feedback. Jeane is basically a fancy steering-wheel cover that lets you know when you’re driving with a lead foot.
But the most interesting thing about the project is that Jeane isn’t designed to act in isolation. It’s intended to communicate with other Jeanes in the cars around it. Using a Bluetooth Low Energy connection, it can link cars together long before such vehicle-to-vehicle communications technology becomes standard in cars that roll off the assembly line. Jeanes in the cars around you will instantly notify your Jeane when their cars are braking, sending a vibration to your fingertips that will help you instantly react even if your eyes aren’t on the brake lights in front of you.
To be honest, there’s very little chance that the networking aspect of Jeane will ever be useful to ordinary drivers. As a Kickstarter project, there’s only the slimmest chance that you’ll every get close to another Jeane on the highway to ever take advantage of its vehicle networking capabilities. And its reliance on Bluetooth LE means you’d have to be dangerously close to another car for it work.
But credit should go its inventor Arjun Iyer for envisioning a very compelling concept. As autonomous driving technologies make it into future cars we’ll be seeing just this type of scenario: cars platooning in close proximity, drafting off each other’s slip stream, packing themselves onto crowded highways and reacting to each other’s driving patterns.
Jeane may be ahead of its time, but one day a technology like Iyer proposes will be a necessity. As networked and autonomous cars make their way on the road, there will be plenty of cars that don’t have the luxury of a vehicle-to-vehicle link. We’ll need to have after-market technologies like Jeane that bring those older cars into our highway networks.