Cars may soon know when you're on the phone behind the wheel

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Chris Velazco
August 16, 2014 3:02 AM
In this article: algorithm, automotive, cars
Cars may soon know when you're on the phone behind the wheel

Word to the wise, kids: do not muck around with your phone while driving. Some of you probably won't be able to help it (tsk tsk), but a team from Santa Catarina State University in Brazil just might have the solution -- according to MIT Technology Review, they've cooked up an in-car hardware/software combo that can detect when you're on the phone and behind the wheel.

Here's how their system works: a tiny camera embedded in the dashboard quietly records clips of a test driver, which then get cropped closely around the driver's face. Once that's done, the algorithm can chew on each of those three second clips in search of what appear to be hands entering the frame near the driver's face -- the more prominent the hand, the more likely it is the algorithm will think you're driving mid-gab. Of course, building that algorithm is only half the battle -- the team hasn't built a way to alert the driver once he or she has been caught in the act (though it's not for lack of imagination). Crafting a system like this is noble, worthy work, but we can't help but wonder if a little dose of common sense might not be a more effective deterrent. Then again, no one's figured out a way to sell that yet, so expect systems like this to become more common as time marches on.
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