Dearborn, Michigan – Ford Motor Company and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will study driver workload and identify new opportunities to use in-vehicle technologies to improve driver safety by reducing stress.

Partnering with MIT’s AgeLab, the project will identify specific stress-inducing driving situations, monitor the driver’s reaction using biometrics, and evaluate methods to incorporate new stress-reducing features into the next generation of Ford products. The project will begin in January with a six-month study using a specially-equipped Lincoln MKS.

“We strongly believe that driving can be made safer by reducing the stress load placed on a driver,” said Jeff Rupp, manager of active safety research at Ford. “Through the use of our existing technologies such as adaptive cruise control with collision warning, or SYNC, our voice-activated communications system, we are proactively guiding drivers away from difficult situations. The goal of this program is to take this one step further by creating the most comfortable driving environment possible so that our driver is always relaxed, calm and able to perform at peak performance.”

Ford and AgeLab have been working together since 2004, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s New England University Transportation Center, to develop vehicle systems that detect the driver’s state at key points in time. The new project envisions using this information to adjust systems in the car in ways that reduce driver stress.

“Today’s driver is feeling a greater level of anxiety than in the past, both from situations inside and outside the vehicle,” said Joseph Coughlin, director of AgeLab. “This arises in part from the chronic stress in individuals’ daily lives combined with longer commute times, increased driving demands due to traffic congestion, and deteriorating infrastructure. By identifying specific situations and the physiological effect they have on the driver, we are seeking solutions that can bring the driver from a heightened stress level back to an optimal operational state and thereby make their commute safer and more comfortable, renewing the positive experience of driving and riding in an automobile.”

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