Car accident injuries may decline thanks to Australia’s “attention-powered” cars

Date: Oct 15, 2013

Imagine a car that can lower the chances of the driver and passengers sustaining serious car accident injuries simply by forcing the driver to pay attention.

Thanks to the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia, this vehicle could soon exist and help prevent hundreds of fatal car accidents that are caused by inattention.

However, the group said that addressing the problem was much harder than it first appeared to be.

"When we decided to tackle the issue of inattention, we immediately hit a wall. How do you tackle an issue so broad it includes physical and mental distractions, as well as emotional and unintentional triggers?" the group wrote in a note unveiling the attention-powered car.

"The answer we've come up with is a bit Star Wars-esque, but we believe it could help us find the answers we need to save lives and reduce [Western Australia's] appalling road toll – which, by the way, is the worst in country."

By incorporating neuro-technology into existing cars, the group says it can develop a car the goes only when the driver is focusing on the task at hand, and will start to slow as soon as the computer system picks up on any inattention – "just like the force", the RAC quipped.

Using technology to lower car accident injury numbers

To create the innovative machine, the experts hooked drivers up to 14 sensors that measured brain activity while drivers performed distracting tasks, such as eating, using their mobile phone or fiddling with the radio. The test drivers were also asked to perform a "boredom lap", during which they had to circle a track at slow speeds. This allowed the researchers to measure the brain when drivers' minds wandered.

The researchers were able to develop a program that could identify the brain patterns consistent with distracted drivers. This data could be shared with a computer in the car that would either allow the car to operate normally or automatically force it to slow down.

"The RAC is committed to saving lives on our roads and the Attention Powered Car will assist people to understand the importance of paying attention and what are the factors distracting us while we drive," said RAC Executive General Manager Pat Walker

"We are also highlighting the impact of how quickly we can lose concentration, causing lives to be lost, and leaving families and friends to deal with the consequences of road trauma."

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