April 24, 2002

General Motors sponsors university study of driver distractions

Warren, Michigan – General Motors is sponsoring a three-year university research project to study in-car driver distractions. GM Research & Development and Planning will spend more than U.S.$1.6 million at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) over the next three years so that Beckman researchers can seek ways to educate drivers on managing distractions while driving. Researchers are expected to evaluate how prepared drivers are in coping with distractions, as well as the dynamics of how effectively humans interact with the mechanics of a vehicle.

“We know that technology will never replace the good judgment of a driver. However, we hope to use the results of this research to mitigate potential in-vehicle distractions, and help drivers manage other distractions more effectively,” said Robert C. Lange, GM executive director, structure and safety integration.

As a part of the joint initiative, the university also will upgrade its driving simulator at the Beckman Institute’s Integrated Systems Laboratory with state-of-the-art technology to create a true-to-life driving environment for the studies.

Researchers hope to learn even more about how motorists focus on the driving task when facing distractions such as vehicle instruments and other in-vehicle technologies. They will perform real-time measurements using eye-glance movements and rudimentary brain imaging. They also will test drivers’ ability to interact with multiple technologies using the driving simulator. The research projects will run through 2004.

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