Two miles ahead, a construction crew is closing down the right lane on a busy stretch of road. A truck stalled on the left shoulder is slowing down drivers who stop to look. In the minivan to your right, a distracted dad is paying more attention to his kids than to the road. Unfortunately, you are aware of none of these things. Wouldn't it be cool if a computer could analyze all that information and warn you of a high risk condition like this?I-WAY is a project funded by the European Union that uses existing technology, much of it off-the-shelf, to detect, combine and analyze tons of information about traffic. Cameras spot back-ups, accidents and lane closings. Sensors within cars note speed and braking data. They can even detect unsafe driving behavior, such as frequent lane changes or excessive speed. On top of that, sensor packages inside cars monitor the driver's heart rate, steering wheel grip and eye position. The key to all this data acquisition is a computer system that can analyze it all, take stock of the situation, and issue warnings in real-time. Drivers can use their awareness to drive more cautiously if a high risk is present. Highway officials could use the information to adjust lane closings or traffic lght patterns to remove some of the elements causing the risk. I-WAY is still in the testing phase, but it was designed to use low-cost technology already proven to work. It just combines the technology in an innovative way. We could see this in use on certain highways in a few years. I can't wait until I get my first ticket for an unsafe lane change I didn't actually make yet. Image by: InfoMofo. Preventing Traffic Accidents Before They Happen? [Science Daily]
One step toward a completely automated vehicle & traffic control system operating together. The only problem is that once we let the machines start to think for us, we'll have even less incentive to do so on our own. Inattentive drivers will have even more excuse to be inattentive people, and our slide into total stagnation will progress rapidly.