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Canada Considers Artificial Intelligence-based System for Driver Distraction Detection

Ellsworth Air Force Base
Ellsworth Air Force Base

Engineers from Canada’s University of Waterloo have devised a system to combat the growing problem of distracted drivers. With more and more people checking their phones instead of the road, the dangers of distracted driving are only increasing. Now, thanks to the use of cameras and artificial intelligence, all that could change.

In an interview with Digital Trends, the researchers behind the project explained the system and how it could help reduce distracted driving. A smart camera observes hand movements, and tracks any that differ from standard driving behavior. From there, the artificial intelligence determines the potential for danger this movement may cause. The AI can also track the length of time of certain actions — for example, turning on your air conditioner — and factor that in to the level of danger. Finally, the system also takes into account the area outside the vehicle. Actions performed on a highway would rank higher on the danger scale than those where there is no other traffic to be seen.

“Distracted driving is one of the major causes of car crashes around the world and North America in particular. In this work, an artificial intelligence-based system is investigated for driver distraction detection. A full prototype [with both] software and hardware has been designed, implemented and tested, based on the latest tools of deep learning AI and computer vision. The work is motivated by its performance in designing next generation self-driving cars, and by alerting in real time a driver of the imminent danger of his or her action when undergoing text messaging, drinking, reaching objects at the back or side seats, calling on the phone, or operating a radio, [air conditioning unit], or other devices on the dashboard.”

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Fakhri Karray, electrical and computer engineering professor at Waterloo

If the system determines that the driver is indeed distracted and in danger, there are a number of actions it can pursue. The artificial intelligence could sound alerts to warn the driver; in extreme cases, it could even temporarily take control of the car until the danger has passed.

There’s no word on when these new systems might be available to the public, as the engineering team is still working on streamlining and perfecting the design. But with the growing (and deadly) dangers behind distracted driving, there will likely be a large market for this product.

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