Nothing kills people on the roads faster than drivers not paying attention. Cell phones. Tiredness. Fiddling with the dials. Negotiating with the kids. They’re all dangerous.
To dramatize these hazards, road safety researchers from Australia have created an “attention-powered car”–a vehicle that slows to a crawl when drivers get distracted. In an experiment, they fitted volunteers with a 14-point headset to monitor brain activity. When the equipment showed the person was being inattentive, software would override the car’s accelerator, slowing its speed. When the subject regained his focus, the car would start moving normally again.
See an introduction to the project, which was commissioned by the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia:
In testing, the researchers gave drivers common tasks like checking their phone, or reading a map, and asked them to drive at various speeds. By studying neuro imagery for several parts of the brain, they could see if a person was concentrating or “zoning out” (more common at slow speeds). As well as EEG headsets, they also used equipment to measure indicators like blink rate and head movement, building up an in-depth picture of attentiveness on the road.
“We are … highlighting the impact of how quickly we can lose concentration, causing lives to be lost, and leaving families and friends to deal with the consequences of road trauma,” says Pat Walker, the RAC’s executive general manager, in a press release.
See more of the car in action–and inaction–here: