Smart algorithm aims to predict what drivers are about to do

drivingThere has been a tremendous advance in driverless technology in the past few years, with automated systems now capable of navigating day after day safely and efficiently.

Suffice to say however, it is likely to be some time before our roads are solely populated by automated vehicles.  The interim is likely to see a period whereby AI assists us in our driving.

I wrote recently, for instance, about a new development by Jaguar Land Rover to help drivers both navigate around potholes in the road, and to report those holes to authorities.

Assisted driving

A sign of things to come has been delivered by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who have developed a system that can predict what the driver is about to do and then make corrective actions.

“Say you’re reaching for a piece of paper and your hand is bumped mid-reach — your eyes take time to adjust; your nerves take time to process what has happened; your brain takes time to process what has happened and even more time to get a new signal to your hand,” the researchers say.

“So, when something unexpected happens, the signal going to your hand can’t change for at least a tenth of a second — if it changes at all,” they continue.

Putting the system to the test

The researchers put the process through the test in a scenario that analyzed the movements of participants as they interacted with a virtual desk.  They were disrupted in their attempts to do so however, with the algorithm used to predict the intended action of the subject, even when that intent was disrupted and thus not followed through.

The algorithm was successful in predicting the intentions of people, and therefore how they would move.  The hope is that when used in a car, this would keep the car moving in the way the driver intended.

“If we hit a patch of ice and the car starts swerving, we want the car to know where we meant to go,” the team say. “It needs to correct the car’s course not to where I am now pointed, but [to] where I meant to go.”

“The computer has extra sensors and processes information so much faster than I can react,” they continue. “If the car can tell where I mean to go, it can drive itself there. But it has to know which movements of the wheel represent my intention, and which are responses to an environment that’s already changed.”

Alternative uses

The hope is that the technology can also be used in other fields.  For instance, a smart prosthesis might be able to interpret the movements a person hopes to make, but that their body fails to allow.  The prosthesis device can then help them perform the task as intended.

“We call it a psychic robot,” the team say. “If you know how someone is moving and what the disturbance is, you can tell the underlying intent — which means we could use this algorithm to design machines that could correct the course of a swerving car or help a stroke patient with spasticity.”

Obviously it is still in a very early stage of development, so there is a lot of work still required to make it work, but it’s an interesting project that is well worth tracking.


2 thoughts on “Smart algorithm aims to predict what drivers are about to do

  1. In my view the period where driverless cars and driver-ed cars co-exist will be brief and this will accelerate the monopoly of driverless cars.

    The reason for this is that driverless cars are much safer and massively reduce congestion – but only when almost all other cars are also driverless. Therefore families which suffer a fatal road accident will begin to lobby the government to ban driver-ed cars and they will be backed up by congestion experts who will make an equally convincing economic case.

    Soon, the lobby will grow so powerful that government will simply ban manufacturers from making "dangerous driver-ed cars", remove the steering wheel and and hay presto everything changes at once.

    Second half of the chessboard.

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