Two new applications of eye-tracking technology have been developed by researchers at the University of Missouri.

Observing how someone’s eyes change — specifically the pupil — while they respond to an alert given by a vehicle collision avoidance warning could one day help scientists design safer systems.

“Prior to a crash, drivers can be easily distracted by an alert from a collision avoidance warning — a popular feature in new vehicles — and we feel this could be a growing problem in distraction-related vehicle crashes,” said Jung Hyup Kim, an assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering in the MU College of Engineering.

“Therefore, a two-way communication channel needs to exist between a driver and a vehicle. For instance, if a driver is aware of a possible crash, then the vehicle does not have to warn the driver as much. However, if a vehicle provides an alert that, by itself, creates a distraction, it could also cause a crash.”

Kim and Xiaonan Yang, a graduate student at MU, watched how people’s pupils changed in response to their physical reactions to a collision avoidance warning by a vehicle-assisted safety system. Researchers believe they have enough data to begin the next step of developing a two-way communication model.

A person’s pupil could also help scientists find a way to decrease distracted driving crashes through a first-hand perspective into a driver’s behaviour, according to Kim and Rui Tang, a graduate student at MU. Using a driving simulator at the MU College of Engineering, the researchers evaluated a driver’s physical behaviour in real-time by focusing on the driver’s eyes as the crash happened.

“We saw the size of a person’s pupil changed depending on the behavioural response to the severity of the accident,” Kim said.

“Now, we want to take that data, find common patterns and build a model to test how we could help decrease distracted-driving crashes.”

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