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High-tech future solutions to the distracted driving epidemic

Distracted driving is something many people engage in without thinking, such as when they look down at their phone screens to send quick texts to friends or turn around to calm a fussy baby in the backseat.

There are also more severe cases where people habitually pay more attention to anything but the road. In all instances, distracted driving is dire. However, technologies are cracking down to reduce it.

An app that pays people to catch distracted drivers

You’ve heard of crowdfunding, which allows interested people to give money to worthy causes, projects, and other endeavors. An app called Text To Ticket is similar because it uses the power of the people to catch distracted drivers in the act—and pays them for it.

Made for observant people in the passenger seats of cars, the app allows them to capture footage of an offender. It then records stats like distance, location and speed and sends them to the app’s creators. After reporting a verified instance of distracted driving, people receive $5.

If Text To Ticket takes off, it could make a major impact. Case in point? A class of third-graders in Canada got an assignment to spot distracted drivers for a month and they collectively saw 460 people behind the wheel behaving unsafely.

Artificial intelligence could combat distracted driving

You’ve probably heard of how artificial intelligence can do everything from helping you manage your inbox to giving suggestions about what to buy from Amazon. Scientists from the University of Waterloo are working on technology that detects specific hand motions associated with distracted driving.

Even better, it grades actions and categorizes them in terms of danger levels, which encourages people to change their ways before it’s too late.

What about self-driving cars?

Self-driving cars are perhaps the most obvious way to reduce distracted driving. After all, the people in them don’t have to pay attention to the road because the car does everything a driver would do. Most of the early studies have shown that self-driving cars are even safer than conventional ones.

However, some critics say that because these high-tech automobiles use machine learning, it’ll be hard to prove they are safe due to the difficulty in getting identical results during tests. Before machine learning, engineers wrote code related to certain operating requirements and then tested them to ensure they worked properly.

Machine learning makes it more difficult because it’s such a fluid process. The technology gets smarter over time, so it’s not as straightforward as writing code and seeing if it performs as expected.

Dashcams for people in the trucking industry

Many of today’s police cars have dashcams installed in them, which has helped boost accountability when law enforcement officials engage with people in the community. There’s also evidence to suggest they make drivers less likely to participate in risky behaviors while driving and that they may even provide case-building footage related to auto accident claims.

In the future, we may regularly see long-distance truckers using dashcams in their vehicles. This is already happening to a small extent and will likely continue if it proves as beneficial as it seems.

Statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mention that distracted driving-related crashes that happen on the job cost employers over $72,000. Laws prohibit commercial drivers from texting or using handheld devices, so dash cams could ensure they comply while simultaneously saving money for their workplaces.

Image recognition that detects drowsiness

Fellow drivers often recognize the symptoms of distracted driving when they see cars veering from their lanes or making strange changes in speed. Other indicators are only obvious from inside the automobile, but special image recognition technologies can see them.

A company called DENSO sells a Driver Status Monitor that uses image-based capabilities to check things like a driver’s head position and the length of time the person’s eyes stay closed. It maintains accurate performance despite differing levels of environmental light or the cabin layouts of various vehicles.

When the system detects conditions that mean a person is likely too sleepy for safe driving, it displays a warning on the device’s screen. The technology can also adjust a driver’s mirrors for improved visibility.

People don’t usually think of things like soft seats, warmth from the heater, and a soothing song playing on the radio as distractions. But they’re all things that could lull you to sleep at what is arguably one of the worst possible times.

These high-tech helpers represent a potentially brighter future—one where drivers are more alert and don’t fall victim to distractions. As a result, motor vehicle operators, passengers, and pedestrians stay safer.