Driven to Distraction

techHow can we ensure that we keep our eyes on the road and not on the many distractions that are finding their way into our cars as our cars get more connected? What can Eye-tracking technology do?

A few weeks ago after spending some time with the Opel Adam I came to the conclusion that a car with endless options for customisation , a very smart exterior and the inability to speak back during an argument was a very serious contender for a replacement to a partner.

But what about that emotional connection with another human being? How can a piece of metal compete with that? No need to worry ladies; the car of the future will be able to look deep into your eyes too!

And that’s a good thing because as carmakers respond to the smartphone generation with elaborate infotainment systems and flash touchscreens, there have never been more distractions in our cars. The temptation to respond to that tweet or check the name of that restaurant while driving may be too great in the connected car. We really need someone to be keeping an eye on us.

Wandering eyes can be a danger while driving and carmakers are taking steps to balance advances in technology that allow us to stay connected while driving, with additional safety features. Things like steering-wheel mounted audio controls, voice-activated systems for texting and making phone calls, lane departure warning systems and autonomous emergency braking systems are all contributing to making us safer in our cars, either by limiting the need for us to take our eyes off the road, or by stepping in when our concentration lapses.

One of the most science-fiction type solutions the motor industry has up its sleeve to keep us safe on the road is in my opinion eye-tracking technology. Toyota, General Motors and Ford are currently carrying our research in this area which would see cameras and sensors fitted to our cars that would monitor eye behaviour while driving.

By monitoring the vision and alertness of the driver, the driver would be alerted if for example a hazard was detected outside the driver’s line of vision.  Behavioural changes in the eye like sagging eyelids or reduced blinking, which could indicate that the driver was falling asleep, would also be detected and the driver alerted by a sound alarm or a vibration in the driver’s seat.

While we could see applications of eye-tracking technology making their way into cars in the future, there has to be a level of personal responsibility when it comes to having elaborate infotainment systems and Internet connectivity at our fingertips while driving. While current aids like steering-wheel mounted audio controls and voice-activated systems, and perhaps eye tracking technology in the future might help us to keep our eyes on the road, the question is where will our minds be?


4th July, 2013


Author: wheelsforwomen

Ireland's only website for women on wheels - cars, motorbikes, bikes. Video/ reviews, driving tips - written by women for women.

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