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Inattentive Drivers Get Help : The car that can read road signs

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posted on Oct, 7 2004 @ 10:59 AM
(CNN) -- Inattentive drivers who fail to pay attention to road signs could soon find their cars picking up on their bad habits.

A new system designed by an Australian team at the National Information and Communications Technology Australia (NICTA) laboratory in Canberra enables cars to read road signs and alert drivers who ignore them.

The driver assistant system (DAS) was unveiled at the International Conference on Intelligent Robotic Systems in Sendai, Japan, last week after performing impressively in preliminary tests.

The technology uses a small camera mounted on the rear-view mirror that monitors the road ahead. A dashboard computer then checks images for symmetrical shapes and compares them to a list of road signs.

When the computer detects a speed limit sign, another connection to the speedometer tells it if the driver has slowed accordingly. Two cameras mounted on the dashboard also monitor the driver's gaze, triggering an alert if a sign appears to have been ignored.

The technology has potentially significant implications for road safety, with 30 percent of road fatalities estimated to be caused by driver inattention.

Backseat Big Brother
While some drivers might consider DAS to be a backseat Big Brother, NICTA prefers to compare the device to other driving aids such as anti-skid braking or cruise control. Their research also highlights the common example of inattentive drivers alerted by passengers to cars emerging from side roads or passengers crossing the street.

"The challenge is to make driver assistance relevant to the driver and support them, rather than taking control away from them, or flooding them with information," says Barnes.

"Some drivers may be inclined to switch any such system off, but if it saves them from a big fine by pointing out a speed sign they had missed they may be more appreciative," adds Luke Fletcher, who developed the driver gaze detection technology as part of research towards a PhD.


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