Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Age Lab and Touchstone Evaluations, a human factors engineering firm from Michigan, have released a study in which they are attempting to describe human “attentional awareness” with a mathematical algorithm. Ultimately, they hope that with this kind of knowledge, cars of the future will be better designed to help drivers keep their attention on the road.
The study used data collected from a 2012 government sponsored project in which 2,600 vehicles in six states were outfitted with cameras and sensors and then left for more than a year. This resulted in very detailed and objective information about the drivers’ actual habits and behaviors. The researchers from MIT and Touchstone studied the data collected in the 20 seconds before a crash happened. Then they tested an algorithm called AttenD from 2009, to see how reliable it was for predicting when accidents happen based on activity in the car 20 or so seconds prior. AttenD performed well enough that the researchers feel that future algorithms could be used to build and test products to improve safety in cars.
From eating, to adjusting the radio, or texting, drivers have plenty of distractions. Technology has added even more such as cellphones, navigation systems, and entertainment systems. The issue of technological distractions is that drivers do not always initiate engagement with the product. If the phone starts ringing, even on a Bluetooth connection, the driver generally feels emotionally compelled to answer it. These cues arrive with no regard to what the situation on the road is. More human-friendly tech could eliminate distractions during situations that requires the driver’s full attention. In heavy traffic or bad weather conditions researchers have proposed that call or text notifications and entertainment choices would not be made available to the driver.
Linda Angell is the head of Touchstone and a former General Motors engineer. She says the goal is to structure tasks in a way that drivers can also keep their eyes on the road. Even while a driver is searching through their new infotainment system, their awareness of their surroundings needs to be kept high. The study made it clear to the researchers that well before a crash happens, there was a breakdown in attention allocation on the part of the driver. Glancing at the road while also receiving texts means that, while the driver thinks they are paying attention, they are gradually losing awareness of the driving situation.
However, some experts, like Charlie Klauer of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, are nervous about reducing distracted driving down to numbers. She studies distracted driving in people learning to drive and emphasizes that driver education and enforcement of anti-texting laws are equally important. Even in semi-automated cars, soon available from Tesla, Audi, GM, and Mercedes-Benz, the human component will always be there and drivers need to pay attention to their surroundings.
If you have been injured in an accident that was caused by distracted driving or the negligence of another person, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact AlpernSchubert P.C. today to speak to an experienced Pittsburgh car accident lawyer. We will fight to achieve the most favorable outcome possible for your case. Call 412-765-1888 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation in our Pittsburgh offices. We proudly serve clients in Allegheny County, Washington County, and Lawrence County, including those in the communities of Pittsburgh, Washington, and New Castle, Pennsylvania.