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To End Distracted Driving, Mit Figures Out How People Really Drive


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A driver distracted by the passenger, and written directions.

Researchers with the Massachusetts Institute of Technologys Age Lab and Touchstone Evaluations, a human factors engineering firm based in Michigan, are working to accurately to model how humans act inside cars, and to shape their behavior to keep them safe.

Credit: Hans Neleman/Getty Images

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Age Lab and Touchstone Evaluations are producing accurate models of people's behavior in cars, in order to shape that behavior to preserve safety.

The team last week released a technique for algorithmically modeling human "attentional awareness" in the hope that auto suppliers and designers will tap it to build products that aid drivers in ensuring safety.

The researchers used a database of driving behavior to investigate conditions 20 seconds prior to collisions "to see failures in attention allocation that are indicative of less awareness in the operating environment in the crash events," says MIT's Bryan Reimer.

Their AttenD algorithm was tested, and determined to be good at predicting crashes based on what drivers were doing  20 seconds beforehand. The researchers believe their work could lead to more human-friendly technology, such as a decluttering of an auto's instrument panel in situations requiring more attentional awareness.

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