New AI technology could prevent distracted driving crashes

California motorists may have heard that autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles can drive more safely than humans can. However, it is still important for people to keep their eyes on the road while operating them. This was proven in Arizona when an Uber self-driving car struck and killed a pedestrian while its human driver was distracted.

Luckily, there is already technology available that can monitor a person's attention level while driving autonomous or regular cars. The technology uses artificial intelligence algorithms to analyze live video of a driver and detect when they become distracted. Experts say such software could have helped in the Uber accident, as the vehicle already had a driver-facing camera installed. If the camera had been programmed to analyze the driver's eye position, head pose and eye closure rate, it may have been able to alert the driver to his inattention before the fatal crash.

GM has already placed similar technology in Cadillacs. The cars' steering wheels have a tiny camera that monitors the driver's head and eyes. If the technology detects that the driver is not paying attention to the road, it flashes lights and sets off a warning alarm. If the driver fails to respond to the alerts, the car will slowly stop, activate its hazard lights and call OnStar, GM's emergency vehicle-assistance service.

While semi-autonomous vehicles could make California roads safer, drivers still have the responsibility to pay attention while operating them. People who are injured in a car crash caused by a distracted driver have the right to sue the at-fault individual for damages. If the lawsuit is successful, compensation could be awarded for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and other losses.

Source: Quartz, "An AI-powered design trick could help prevent accidents like Uber's self-driving car crash", Dave Gershgorn, March 30, 2018

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