Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada has developed a new software that can better detect and alert drivers when they are texting while driving. The new artificial intelligence (AI) system detect hand movements to detect activities that distract drivers when driving using cameras.

Professor Fakhri Karray believes that information could be used to enhance road safety by warning or alerting drivers when they are dangerously distracted.

As advanced self-driving features are increasingly added to conventional cars, signs of serious driver distraction could be employed to trigger protective measures, he said.

The system is capable to detect hand movements that deviate from normal driving behaviour and grades or classifies them in terms of possible safety threats.

“The car could actually take over driving if there was imminent danger, even for a short while, in order to avoid crashes,” said Karray.

The Algorithms used in the system were trained using machine-learning techniques to recognise actions such as texting, talking on a cell phone or reaching into the backseat to retrieve something. The seriousness of the action is assessed based on duration and other factors.

That work builds on extensive previous research on the recognition of signs, including frequent blinking, that drivers are in danger of falling asleep at the wheel. Head and face positioning are also important cues of distraction.

“It has a huge impact on society,” said Karray, citing estimates that distracted drivers are to blame for up to 75 per cent of all traffic accidents worldwide.

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