UI researchers develop distracted driving sensor - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UI researchers develop distracted driving sensor

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CORALVILLE (KWWL) -- Researchers at the University of Iowa's National Advanced Driving Simulator have developed an in-car system that can detect if a person is driving under the influence of alcohol.

"We really wanted to go back to the front end of the process and look at vehicle control," Dr. Timothy Brown said.

That's what sensors in the lab's simulators look for; things like steering wheel and foot pedal inputs, and how constant a vehicle's speed is. All are taken into consideration with the help of computers and mathematical calculations done by researchers.

"We're able to successfully differentiate drivers who were above the legal limit, from those that were below," Brown explained. "We just basically throw all the numbers in there, and you let the computer crunch and see what you come up with. It was able to predict whether or not you were impaired at basically the same level as a standardized field sobriety test."

Brown said the practical applications of this kind of system may include lights or alarms that warn the driver that he or she is not fit to be on the road. With a little tweaking, the system may also be able to detect if a person is distracted or nodding off.

"If it knows you're beginning to get a little bit drowsy, and maybe if you're not to the level where you need to stop and take a break, it might adjust collision warning thresholds in the vehicle, so you get an earlier warning in the event that things are changing rapidly, and you need to be able to respond," Brown said.

He explained that cars that drive themselves are still far in the future, but systems that help a driver make safer decisions may be right around the corner. It's possible that vehicles may come standard with impairment alert technology in the next five to ten years.

Online Reporter: Brady Smith

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