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New Technology for Combating Distracted Driving

General Motors is investing in new technology designed to track the eyes and face of the people driving their vehicles. The information gathered is used to determine whether a driver is succumbing to fatigue or distraction. If a driver turns his or her attention away from the road for too long, such devices could trigger a warning tone or other form of correction.

GM's contract is with Seeing Machines, a company that has already worked with trucking and mining companies to analyze operator attention. Eye tracking and face tracking technology is one method of reducing the car accidents caused by distracted drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,328 traffic fatalities in 2012 were the result of distraction. An additional 421,000 people suffered injuries in this type of accident.

The technology represents another expansion of semi-autonomous vehicles. Newer vehicles are increasingly being equipped with devices to automatically apply the brakes to avoid collisions, provide warnings when the vehicle drifts out of the lane, or otherwise take action to help drivers avoid injury. The contract signed by GM calls for 500,000 tracking devices to be installed in vehicles over the next five years.

Distracted driver accidents may be a growing problem. The NHTSA reports that 10 percent of drivers under 20 years of age who get into deadly accidents were distracted when the collision occurred. Younger drivers are more likely to engage in texting behind the wheel or use smart phone technology while driving.

Source: Wired, "Your Next Chevy May Watch You Watching the Road," by Jordan Golson, 3 September 2014

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