Biometrics used to measure car racers’ response

August 23, 2012 - 

Scientists are working on creating an autonomous vehicle, just like KITT from Knight Rider, and are using biometrics to develop it.

Scientists from Stanford’s Revs Program, headed by Professor Chris Gerdes were recently on the tracks of the world famous Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to monitor two professional racers.

The racer’s biometrics was monitored as they drove a 1966 Ford GT40 during the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.

The scientists noted the drivers’ biological data by looking at their body temperatures along with heart rates and most of all, their brain activities. Electrodes were placed on the scalp of the drivers under the helmet to monitor brain activity. This helped provide insights as to what goes on in the minds of the drivers.

Biological data were then compared with metrics from the GT40. The car was outfitted with accelerometers, laser sensors and gyroscopes, to help monitor how the driver relates with the car. As Gerdes and his team looked for data on steering corrections, the data gathered would indicate periods of intense concentration and relaxed turns especially on familiar sections.

Initial tests showed that some tasks like correcting a skid are reflexive or intuitive and thus brain activity is rather low.

Dr. Gerdes explained why a GT40 was used and not another modern, high-performance car: “If we were to use a modern street car with a lot of electronic aids, we wouldn’t really be able to see what the driver does on their own to stabilize the car and push it to limits. What we would see would be dominated by aerodynamic effects that aren’t present on passenger cars.”

All the information gathered will be incorporated into Shelly, Stanford’s autonomous car, that will be able to exercise control over its own steering controls.

Based on the data gathered from professional drivers, Stanford will be able to design safety features into an autonomous car that will help ordinary drivers, when pushed to their limits, with conditions like slippery roads.

Would you ride in a car that can drive itself?

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About T'ash Spenser

T’ash Spencer writes full time for She has 15 years experience in the field of regional planning and earned her Master’s of Science in Regional Development Planning and Management from the University of Dortmund, Germany. Follow her @tashspencer1.