Ford developing ways to manage driver distraction

Ford developing ways to manage driver distraction image

Text: / Photos: Ford | posted June 29, 2012 12:40

Ford researchers also are using biometric feedback through sensors in the steering wheel, seat and seat belt to provide a more complete model of driver stress levels

With today’s ever-increasing concern about driver distraction, engineers in the Ford Research and Innovation labs are developing ways to help drivers stay focused in busy situations by intelligently managing incoming communications.

“Ford has been a leader in delivering solutions for in-car communications and simplifying the user interface, and now we’re researching ways to use the car’s own intelligence to further help drivers,” says Jeff Greenberg, senior technical leader of Ford Research and Innovation. “Vehicle control inputs, sensors, road conditions and biometric information such as a driver’s pulse and breathing can all be used to create a driver workload estimation that can then help manage certain functions in demanding situations.”

Data from the sensing systems of driver-assist technologies can be used to determine the amount of external demand and workload upon a driver at any given time including traffic and road conditions. In addition, Ford continues its health and wellness research with the development of a biometric seat, seat belt and steering wheel that can monitor the condition of the driver to help add an even more specific estimate of the driver’s state of being.

“In addition to using existing vehicle data to estimate demand on the driver, we’re researching ways to get an even better understanding of the stress level of the driver,” says Gary Strumolo, manager of vehicle design and infotronics, Ford Research and Innovation. “Biometric or health information of the driver can help us better tailor the experience when behind the wheel.”


The driver workload estimator is an algorithm using real-time data from existing sensors such as radar and cameras combined with input from the driver’s use of the throttle, brakes and steering wheel. The result is an intelligent system enabling management of in-vehicle communications based on the assessed workload of the driving situation.

The car could intelligently apply the “Do Not Disturb” feature that is already available as part of MyFord® Touch, helping the driver stay focused on the road during the high-demand situation.

With a more complete picture of the driver’s health and wellness blended with knowledge of what is happening outside the vehicle, the car will have the intelligence to dynamically adjust the alerts provided to the driver and filter interruptions.

“While these features are still in research, they show significant opportunity for us to leverage data already being captured by the vehicle and apply an intelligent decision-making system to simplify the driving experience,” adds Strumolo.