Eye-Com Eye Tracking Drive Simulator Studies Driver Inattention
Driver drowsiness and distraction are serious safety hazards on the road. It only takes a momentary lapse of attention to impair a driver’s responsiveness and reflexes. Analyzing a driver’s state of consciousness and awareness while they are actually behind the wheel is a challenge, especially when using biometric equipment to collect data. The mechanisms for recording biometrics like heart rate, brainwave activity, and eye behavior patterns are often intrusive and distracting themselves, putting the test subject in a dangerous situation. A research and development company that specializes in eye tracking technology, called Eye-Com Corporation, has created the Eye-Com Lab Drive Simulator as a safe testing environment to evaluate the effects of driver drowsiness, fatigue, and inattention.
Constructed from the cab of a Dodge Ram 5200 truck, the Drive Simulator presents realistic driving scenarios in a laboratory setting to observe the effects of different conditions that may compromise a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. The cab has automatic transmission, gas and brake pedals, and a speedometer that displays the simulated driving speed. Realistic driving scenes depicted on three panoramic projection screens are navigated by the driver using a steering system with a torque motor to emulate the resistance of power steering. The simulated driving scenarios even include the sound effects of engine noise, wind, tire screeching, and vehicle crashing.
This safe testing environment gives researchers the ability to monitor driver physiological states from an observation area while each session is in progress. Multiple ocular measures, such as gaze direction, blink frequency, and percentage of time the eyes are closed (PERCLOS), can be recorded using an eye tracker that is synchronized in real-time with the Drive Simulator. Other biometric sensors like EEG (brainwave) and EKG (heart rate) can also be incorporated into the system to provide feedback on drivers’ conditions.
Driving simulators like the one at Eye-Com Corporation have many testing and research applications. Beyond studying driver distraction and inattention, driving simulators can be used to test the driving fitness of elderly or handicapped drivers and for clinical rehabilitation in patients with mild dementia or stroke victims, among others. The Eye-Com Lab Drive Simulator was recently used in a research study in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Transportation that validated the PERCLOS measure as a method to detect the onset of drowsiness. Because PERCLOS is a measure that is detected through the use of eye tracking, there is a good chance that eye tracking devices will be the solution to reducing driver fatigue and drowsiness related accidents.
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