Car safety system could anticipate driver's mistakes

April 15, 2015 by Bill Steele
Car safety system could anticipate driver's mistakes
By monitoring a driver's head movements and watching the road ahead, a computer can guess the driver's intentions. Here, the computer predicts the highest probability for a left turn at the next intersection. Credit: Robot Learning Lab

It may be a while yet before we have cars that drive themselves, but in the near future your car may help you drive. In particular, it could warn you when you're about to do something stupid.

Cornell researchers have developed one crucial tool the car will need: a system that anticipates what the driver is going to do a few seconds before it happens. Some cars already are equipped with safety systems that monitor a car's movement and warn if there is an unsafe turn or lane change. But that warning comes too late, after the driver has acted. By observing the driver's and considering that in the context of what's happening outside the car, a new computer algorithm determines the probability that the driver will turn, change lanes or continue straight ahead.

"There are many systems now that monitor what's going on outside the car," explained Ashutosh Saxena, assistant professor of computer science. "Internal monitoring of the driver will be the next leap forward." Saxena and graduate student Ashesh Jain will describe their system in a workshop on "Model Learning for Human-Robot Communication" at the 2015 Robotic Science and Systems conference July 16 in Rome.

Combining driver anticipation with radar or cameras to locate other vehicles, the car's could warn the driver when the anticipated action could be dangerous. The warning might be a light, a sound or even a vibration. "If there's danger on the left, the left side of the steering wheel or the seat could vibrate," Jain suggested.

Drawing on street maps and GPS information, the system also might give an "illegal turn" message if the driver was planning to turn the wrong way on a one-way street.

To develop the system, Saxena and colleagues recorded video of 10 , along with video of the road ahead, for 1,180 miles of freeway and city driving over a period of two months. A computer using face detection and tracking software identified head movements and learned to associate them with turns and lane changes, so that the final system can anticipate possible actions the driver may take. The computer continuously reports its anticipations to the 's central safety system.

In a test against another data set of videos with different drivers, the system correctly predicted the driver's actions 77.4 percent of the time, anticipating an average 3.53 seconds in advance. Those few extra seconds might save lives, Saxena said.

The system still needs refinement, the researchers noted. Six percent of the time, they found, face tracking was confused by shadows of passing trees and other lighting variations. The system also can be misled by drivers interacting with passengers. In some situations, such as turning from a turn-only lane, drivers don't always give the same head cues. Sometimes they rely on short-term memory of traffic conditions and don't turn their heads to check. It may come down to tracking eye movements, the researchers said.

This is only a first step, Jain said, and incorporating it in a complete safety system is a job for automakers. Future improvements may include infrared cameras to observe at night and 3-D cameras for greater accuracy. Other inputs may be added, such as tactile sensors to monitor pressure on the , and cameras or pressure sensors to observe what the driver's feet are doing – perhaps to anticipate braking.

Observations could be extended to other activities, such as whether the driver is looking at a phone or a watch. The system could link directly to such wearable technologies, Jain said.

Explore further: Toyota: Cars will be safer, but still need drivers

Related Stories

Phones, friends are distracting problem for teen drivers

March 25, 2015

Distractions—especially talking with passengers and using cellphones—play a far greater role in car crashes involving teen drivers than has been previously understood, according to compelling new evidence cited by safety ...

Volvo researches car tech to see if you are sleepy

March 19, 2014

(Phys.org) —Volvo Cars announced on Monday its work on a driver sensor system that can tell if the driver is alert, distracted, or even nodding off. The idea is to provide a safety system, where, on detection, the car can ...

Recommended for you

A not-quite-random walk demystifies the algorithm

December 15, 2017

The algorithm is having a cultural moment. Originally a math and computer science term, algorithms are now used to account for everything from military drone strikes and financial market forecasts to Google search results.

US faces moment of truth on 'net neutrality'

December 14, 2017

The acrimonious battle over "net neutrality" in America comes to a head Thursday with a US agency set to vote to roll back rules enacted two years earlier aimed at preventing a "two-speed" internet.

FCC votes along party lines to end 'net neutrality' (Update)

December 14, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission repealed the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules Thursday, giving internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T a free hand to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit ...

The wet road to fast and stable batteries

December 14, 2017

An international team of scientists—including several researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory—has discovered an anode battery material with superfast charging and stable operation ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.