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Future Tech: 

Brain4Cars wants to warn drivers before they make a mistake

"Why didn't I pack my creepy back-seat-driver camera today?"

“Why didn’t I pack my creepy back-seat-driver camera today?”

Technology that can predict what we’re going to do next creeps us out a bit, to be honest. The likes of Minority Report and Nineteen Eighty-Four have given us authoritarian nightmares about the dangers of future and thought crimes, but what if the technology can be used to transform people into safer drivers?

That’s what Brain4Cars is offering, other than a name which makes the subeditor in us roll his eyes so far back into his head that they’re in danger of coming loose. Devised by scientists at Cornell and Stanford universities, the technology watches the driver, and warns them if they’re about to do something wrong. Like putting on that dreadful mixtape. Or turning the wrong way into a one-way road.

How does it manage that? By monitoring the driver’s head movements. The scientists recorded video of 10 drivers and the road in front of them over two months, in which they covered over 1,000 miles each on freeways and on city roads.

By analyzing the footage, researchers were able to use face detection and tracking software to detect what movements preceded common driving maneuvers – like lane changes and turns.

When they used the data on real-world drivers, they found their predictions were accurate 77.4 percent of the time, and they were able to know what these drivers were about to do 3.53 seconds before they did it, on average.

The plan in the long-run is that a commercial version of Brain4Cars (ugh, don’t make us write that again) could sit alongside GPS and map data to warn drivers if they’re about to make a mistake. Though we’re not sure if having 3.53 seconds to change route is going to make that big a difference – especially if it’s one of the 23.6 percent of the time the machine is wrong about driving intentions, as things stand.

It also has problems with shadows on drivers’ faces, but the researchers are aware of this, and are considering options to make things more reliable – infrared, 3d cameras and sensors on the steering wheel and pedals have been mooted.

You can see a demo of the system in the video below.

Now if only they could add an electric shock for playing music at obnoxiously loud volumes, we’d be all set.

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