New technology may help predict and prevent road rage incidents before they occur. The website RT.com reports that researchers at École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, Switzerland, have developed a dashboard sensor that can detect emotion by scanning a driver’s face. They claim the face-scanning system can detect human emotions such as fear, anger, joy, sadness, disgust, surprise or suspicion.
“We know that in addition to fatigue, the emotional state of the driver is a risk factor,” the developers told Sarah Griffiths of the Daily Mail. “Irritation, in particular, can make drivers more aggressive and less attentive.”
“The problem was to get the device to recognize irritation on the face of a driver, because everyone expresses this emotional state differently,” they said.
Furthermore, they needed to figure out how to make the new device small enough to fit into the already-crowded dashboards of modern cars. They have solved that problem by placing a tiny infrared camera behind the steering wheel.
Other problems still exist, as the computer can be confused by drivers who express emotions differently from the ways in which it is programmed to recognize.
If all of these problems are ironed out, the system could prove useful in the United States, where aggressive driving is seen as a problem on highways and roads. Although no agency compiles official numbers on road rage incidents, it is estimated by the Archives of General Psychiatry that as many as 16 million Americans succumb to road rage at some point during their lifetimes. Psychiatrists classify road rage as "intermittent explosive disorder,” according to an article on healthday.com.
Before the system can be released, though, the researchers need to decide what to program the computer to do with the information once it predicts that a road rage incident may occur. It is unclear whether they would program the computer to slow the speed of the car or issue a calming message to the driver.
Testing on the system is currently being conducted in France.