UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering University of California San Diego
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Smart Cars

In his lab, Trivedi test “drives” auto body equipped with external/internal cameras and other sensors.

RESEARCH FUNDING FROM THREE MAJOR AUTOMAKERS has allowed ECE Professor Mohan Trivedi to embark on a series of related new projects. Their common goal: harness cutting-edge telematics technology to make safer, ‘smart’ cars. Says Trivedi. “The payoff of these projects could come in the form of enhanced auto safety and saved lives.” Driver distraction is the cause of 8,000 deaths each year on American roads. The biggest of Trivedi’s research projects, approved in May with a $3 million, three-year grant from Nissan, aims to develop new technology to prevent driver distraction—by enhancing perception, control and decisionmaking.

Another auto-safety issue is airbag deployment. While they save many lives, airbags have also caused more than 200 deaths since 1990. This spring, Trivedi’s Computer Vision and Robotics Research lab launched a two-year project with $600,000 in support from Volkswagen. Their hope is to capture and analyze posture and body information of car passengers fast enough to communicate the information and prevent deployment if the passenger is a child or small adult, or is leaning too far forward. Similar technology could also make it safer for drivers to talk on their cell phones. That research is underwritten in part with $250,000 from DaimlerChrysler.