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Gaurav Sood, Jordan Willis, Ian DouglasResearch team: grad students Gaurav Sood, Jordan Willis and Ian Douglas helped design devices that reduce the risk of auto collisions.

Computer technology driving research into safer auto traffic

The self-driving car may seem like a distant fantasy, but a group of UWindsor researchers is programming sophisticated technology designed to drastically reduce roadway collisions and revolutionize the way drivers navigate streets and highways.

Computer science professors Arunita Jaekel and Robert Kent, along with several graduate students, are working with automotive industry partner Arada Systems to design and program devices that leave drivers in control of their vehicles but provide a picture of what is happening on surrounding roadways.

The device connects to a vehicle’s navigational system and collects data about acceleration, speed, steering angle, velocity and spatial location. The researchers are writing and testing algorithms that turn this information into safety warnings and gives drivers the heads-up about such hazards as vehicles in blind spots; the location of oncoming emergency vehicles; and nearby vehicles about to run a stop sign.

Jordan Willis, who recently graduated with a masters of computer science degree, says one way to understand how the new technology reduces risk is to consider this scenario:

“Say a queue of five cars is all driving in the same lane, when suddenly the driver at the front of the queue slams on their brakes, leaving everyone scrambling to quickly brake. If the on-board device alerts them to the braking before they see it’s needed, everyone slows down together and this drastically reduces the risk of multiple collisions.”

Masters of computer science candidate Ian Douglas says fatalities from roadway accidents are a global health issue, with a staggering number of people killed in collisions every day.

“The World Health Organization has a 10-year plan to look into traffic safety because there are just shy of 3,400 people dying around the globe each day from car accidents,” he says. “They figure collision warning systems could reduce non-impaired collisions by 70 to 80 percent. In addition to saving lives, that would save billions in collision repairs and medical bills.”

Dr. Kent says advances in driving technology may eventually allow visually challenged or blind people to drive their own vehicles and that all new cars will be mandated to have on-board units within the next few years.

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