News Stories

Cars That Think

Would accidents be eliminated if cars could drive themselves? Someday cars may fix their own dents. Cars already automatically lock doors when they sense motion and turn on warning lights if they detect potential engine problems. But they are about to get even smarter?they may soon be capable of analyzing human behavior.

NASA engineers are designing cars that can deduce from your driving that you're become tired, or during critical situations, tell your cell phone to hold an incoming call so you won't be distracted. Researcher Kevin Dixon says, "We utilized data that already existed on the car's computer to collect a wide range of physical data such as brake pedal force, acceleration, steering wheel angle, and turn signaling, and specialized sensors including a pressure sensitive chair and an ultrasonic six-degree-of freedom head tracking system measured driver posture."

They got this data from drivers who were fitted with caps connected to EEG electrodes that measured the electrical activity of the brain as they performed driving functions. The researchers collected several hours of data in unstructured driving conditions that were put into software that categorized driving behavior, enabling existing car computers to detect certain driving situations such as approaching a slow-moving vehicle or changing lanes in preparation to pass another vehicle.

"The beauty of this is that we aren't doing anything new or different to the car," Dixon says. "All the software that can make the determination of 'dangerous' or 'safe' driving situations would all be placed in the computer that already exists in the car. It's almost like there is another human in the car?Every year tens of thousands of people die in automobile crashes, many caused by driver distraction. If our [software] can identify dangerous situations before they happen and alert drivers to them, we will help save lives."

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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