Aware Vehicles

Context aware technologies collect data through sensors and other information sources to link an operating environment with a computer system. Decision processes can then adapt to changing conditions and inform users and other systems about the state of operating environment. The adaption of aware technologies to the automobile can help increase safety, enhance the driver’s interaction with autonomous vehicle systems, provide a more comprehensive connection between the vehicle and intelligent infrastructure and enable generation emergency systems. Technology now exists to integrate the physical, physiological and psychological dimensions of the driver with, operational characteristics of the vehicle and other measures from the infrastructure and environment.

My colleagues and I are concerned that the physical and cognitive changes occurring naturally across the lifespan coupled with changes in state related to health, medication usage and other factors that impact distractibility, confidence and overall performance will continue to diminish a person’s ability to drive safely. Currently our efforts focus on developing a vehicle system that may better detect changes in driver state associated with changing capacity. An “Aware” vehicle platform will reveal how a driver responds to various driving situations, provide an indication of state and uses feedback from advanced vehicle features that help optimize state. These technologies will empower the driver to make appropriate decisions, promote self regulation and safe driving throughout the lifespan. Specific research questions I am interested include:

  • What are the key attributes of the operator, vehicle and environment that provide the most robust state detection?
  • How aware technologies can inform the design and development of vehicle interfaces, minimize driver distraction and manage driver workload with autonomous vehicle systems?
  • What types of feedback mechanisms are optimal and does adaptive feedback about safe operation promote longitudinal changes in driver behaviors and self-regulation?

In 2006, I designed and developed a vehicle instrumentation platform to capture time synchronized data on the driving environment, the operation of the vehicle, the driver’s allocation of visual attention and the driver’s psychophysiological arousal to develop detection algorithms for future aware vehicle systems. The system also provides functionality for the real time assessment and validation of adaptive feedback systems. Components of the instrumentation were initially testing in the MIT AgeLab driving simulator “Miss Daisy” and later integrated in a Volvo XC90 “AWRCAR” for field data collection. I am now in the process of developing a newer test platform that provides more advanced sensing technology for forward vehicle detection and lane departure. This work has a large degree of overlap with my efforts in driver distraction.

Project Descriptions