The Danger-Sensing Driver's Seat

A haptic car seat pokes you in the ribs when an accident looms

2 min read

Today’s carmakers boast of their new vehicles’ cocoonlike qualities, including the latest noise-reducing features and great shocks that smooth out those bumps on the road. Myriad warning alarms are designed to counteract the insular environment when there’s trouble, but Yale University engineers are looking for a more subtle approach to signaling: vibrating motors and movable cams that send signals straight from the seat back to your back.

Such a system could be particularly useful for warning you of cars in your blind spot—an area you can’t see with either the side-view or rearview mirrors. The blind spot is blamed for sideswipe accidents that occur by the hundreds of thousands every year. Today’s blind-spot monitors warn you by flashing a signal in the rearview mirror or on the car’s dashboard.

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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