MIT Seeks to Put an End to Distracted Drivers

It is easier now more than ever to take your eyes off the road while driving to text a friend or follow your in-car navigation system. There are also the classic diversions of yelling at your children in the backseat, adjusting the radio station, or taking a sip of your morning coffee.

Almost 40,000 people were fatally injured in car accidents in the United States last year, and experts believe that the damage done by distracted driving has drastically increased. To end this trend, experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Age Lab and Touchstone Evaluations, a human factor engineering firm based in Michigan, have partnered to figure out how people really drive. The study, funded by major automotive and tech companies including Google, Honda, Denso, and Jaguar Land Rover, aim to accurately model how people act inside of their vehicles, and shape their behavior to keep them safe.

The Analytics of Humans Behind the Wheel

Recently, MIT researchers released a paper that aims to capture human “attention awareness” in mathematical terms. They hope that auto manufacturers and designers will use this data to build products that aid drivers to be safer while on the road.

Many scientists examined the five to six seconds leading up to the accident. MIT took a step further and studied the events that occurred approximately 20 seconds before the crash and the results they found were astonishing. Upstream to the crash, they found failures in attention allocation that resulted in less awareness, the problem that causes the crash start before the car accident even occurs.

Experts at MIT state that it all comes down to eye glances. If you glance at texts on your smartphone or the radio, you are more likely to lose awareness of where you are in space.

AttenD

The algorithm MIT researchers used to collect data is called AttenD, dating to 2009 and is extremely good at predicting when car accidents happen based on what drivers are doing 20 seconds prior to the crash.

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