Stewart wants to be the middleman between you and your autonomous car


This tactile interface is designed for fully autonomous cars and hopes to help mediate the trust issues between man and machine.


Self-driving cars are no longer a futuristic idea, with an estimated 10 million expected to hit the roads by 2020. In fact, companies like Mercedes, BMW, Tesla and Nissan are among countless others that have already begun to implement these autonomous features into their automobiles. Although such vehicles offer obvious benefits such as faster travel times, enhanced safety and more convenience, some folks believe it eliminates a sense of freedom, expression and control while behind the wheel. In order to promote a positive relationship between man and his machine, Felix Ros has developed Stewart — a servo-controlled joystick that will help overcome society’s reluctance in embracing fully autonomous vehicles.

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Stewart will provide you with constant updates about the car’s behavior and its intentions. However, if you don’t agree on the car’s next course of action, you can manipulate the tactile interface to change this. The device will learn from you in the same way that you can learn from it, hopefully resulting in a mutually trusting relationship. It should be noted that Stewart is merely a middleman between the autonomous vehicle and its driver, and is no way intended to actually control the car.

Through nuanced force feedback, Stewart will tell you what the car plans to do next, such as which direction it will choose and whether it will accelerate or brake. Yet, if you disagree with the vehicle’s planned course of action, you can intervene with the joystick to get the car to take your preferred route, or to simply drive in a different style. According to Ros, this puts emotion back into driving within the margins of what is considered safe.

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“So why would you want to control a car that drives itself? Learning to trust a (new) technology takes time. A feeling of control can help to build a mutually trustful relationship,” Ros explains. “Humans are very unpredictable creatures that tend to change their minds frequently. For example: while driving you want to make a detour or you may need a coffee break. These changes of plan can easily be communicated to the car trough Stewart.”

Stewart is equipped with six servos, which are controlled by an Arduino Uno (ATmega328). A Processing sketch calculates the transition of all the six degrees of freedom and feeds that information to the Arduino. Intrigued? Check out the Maker’s official page here, as well as his step-by-step breakdown on Instructables.

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