Leadfoot Ladies: Dr. Anna Anund is Teaching Cars to Save Lives
Although Europe’s roads are the safest in the world, there’s always room for improvement. Every year, more than 25,000 people lose their lives on European roads, while another 130,000 are severely injured. Understandably, the EU would like to see that number cut down to almost zero. It’s a lot to ask, but Dr. Anna Anund and her team at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute are hard at work to save lives with improvements to autonomous driving technology.
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Dr. Anund and her team are developing and refining the sensor-based Adaptive Advanced Driver Assistance System to detect when drivers need a helping hand. For instance, according to the European Commission, driver fatigue is a major factor in 10 to 20 percent of road crashes. But fatigue isn’t the only factor — stress, health issues, distractions, time of day, lighting conditions, and weather all play a role in road safety. Taking all of those factors into account, the Adaptive Advanced Driver Assistance System will determine if the driver seems impaired. If so, the system will attempt to warn the driver — and if necessary, seamlessly pass control from the driver to the car’s autonomous systems.
The Adaptive Advanced Driver Assistance System isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to road safety. Dr. Anund notes that everyone handles impairment a little bit differently. Therefore, it’ll be critical for the system to observe the driver in a normal state. She explains, “It’s important to develop systems where your individual preferences and behaviors are incorporated.” Along with her team, Dr. Anund plans to focus on individualizing both the detection system and the way it interacts with drivers. She also notes that drivers are more likely to trust and accept a vehicle that can communicate intuitively.
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It’ll be a while until Dr. Anund’s project reaches completion, but when it does, her labors just might save thousands of lives across Europe and the world.