In an effort to combat the problems associated with driver inattention, two Australian companies have come together to create an innovative solution.
The Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia and Emotiv built the world's first 'Attention Powered Car' using a brain wave monitoring headset and a Honda i40 fit with special software.
The EPOCH headset -- developed by Emotiv -- monitors the electrical activity in the driver's brain and feeds it into an algorithm to determine if they are paying attention. When the driver is not paying attention, the software sends a cut-off signal to the car and the accelerator switches to idle -- effectively and safely slowing the car down.
According to RAC:
The Attention Powered Car loses power to the accelerator when one or a combination of three things happen:
1. You switch tasks. i.e. your attention goes from the road to the radio.
2. Your neural activity dips, or your blink and eye scan rate slows significantly i.e. you're zoning out or fatigued.
3. The Gyroscope detects that you've significantly turned your head away from the road.
The prototype is largely meant to bring -- ahem -- attention to the issues of distracted and drowsy driving, which are growing problems in both Australia and here in the United States.
In the U.S. alone, approximately 660,000 people use cell phones or manipulate electronic devices at any given daylight moment, making them three times more likely to be involved in an accident. Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous, as one in six fatal crashes involves a drowsy driver.
What's worse is that these are activities that most of us know are dangerous. In fact, 93 percent of Americans think that it is unacceptable to drive drowsy yet 60 percent have admitted to doing so within the last year.
With that in mind, perhaps we should be taking bigger steps to protect other drivers and remove these behaviors from the equation. Perhaps technology like the 'Attention Powered Car' should be more than just a well intentioned media stunt.
Then again, how am I going to get anywhere if my car shuts off every time I post a picture of the foot-long meatball sub I am trying to eat in the middle of freeway traffic?