Some state transportation departments, including Minnesota’s, have spent several years now installing sensors along the roadside for days like this, so plows out on the rural highways won’t go off the roadway when visibility’s bad. Professor John Lee at the University of Iowa has studied new technologies that affect cars and driving, and he says interactive car-road sensors could make driving safer for motorists when there are few visual guides.He says systems that monitor where your car is — relative to the edge of the road — might help you stay on the road better, though he says they won’t take over the job of driving completely. Lee doesn’t see the day when futuristic drivers plug in a destination and let the auto-pilot do it all. Lee calls driving “an incredibly complicated task,” saying we don’t realize that since we do it every day. There are innumerable distractions and unexpected factors for a driver to consider and cope with, and he says there won’t be a computer that can do all that, at least not for the next twenty years. The professor says some high-tech aids will become part of your car, like a collision-avoidance warning device. It uses radar or other sensors to detect cars ahead and it’ll warn if you get too close. For example, he outlines a situation where you’re looking down at your CD player while doing 75 on the highway, with a car ahead of you going 45 MPH, and the system would beep to alert you, getting your attention back on the road in time to avoid a collision. Lee says that collision-avoidance technology’s being put in cars right now. Lee’s an associate professor of industrial engineering at the University of Iowa, and is working on a current project funded by a grant to study cellphones and driver distraction.
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