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Are eye-dle vans the glitch’s playground?

By Claes Bell ·
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Posted: 8 am ET

German researchers recently demonstrated a minivan they've modified to allow it to be driven via eye movement. The minivan collects input from the driver via a system of GPS, cameras and laser eye sensors built into a helmet worn by the driver.

Apparently Associated Press writer Juergen Baetz also envisioned the chaos and carnage that would result from "looking at a cute girl next to the road for a few seconds," but the Germans' whiz-bang technology, installed on a Chrysler minivan for some reason, can take over and drive autonomously to prevent massive casualties in the event of driver stupidity.

Germany's hands-free driving

Germany's hands-free driving. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.


This is impressive technology to be sure (just take a look at that futuristic helmet), but I wonder how long it's going to take before customers start pushing back on "drive-by-wire" and other technologies that seem to take control out of a driver's hands and put it in the circuits of a computer.

This became an issue during the Toyota unintentional acceleration debacle, when some experts, including Dave Gilbert of Southern Illinois University, alleged that a computer glitch could have caused some of the incidents. While Toyota has worked aggressively to refute the allegations, with the degree of computerization and complexity present in today's cars, it seems almost inevitable that a computer crash will one day lead to a fatal car crash.

When that happens, cars' "firmware" will become a major issue, especially since, unlike with mechanical problems, you can't show the driver a tangible fix to the problem such as Toyota's redesigned gas pedal. It'll be a P.R. nightmare for whichever carmaker it happens to, and may be enough to sour American's love affair with having advanced technology in their cars that goes all the way back to the dawn of the automotive age.

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1 Comment
May 22, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Maybe I'm missing something here, but does this invention fill a need? The only sensible application I can envision is for disabled drivers. It seems to me that if you need to have an emergency back-up that is essentially the car driving itself, you ought to just design a system where the car can drive itself given a target set of coordinates.