UTD Researcher, Department Head
To Study In-Vehicle ‘Smart’ Technologies

Findings Could Aid in the Creation of Tools
That Predict Driver Behavior, Improve Safety

RICHARDSON, Texas (Nov. 7, 2005) — A researcher at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) will work on a collaborative project that could help establish international standards for in-vehicle “smart” technologies aimed at predicting driver behavior and, ultimately, keeping drivers safer.

Dr. John H. L. Hansen, head of the Electrical Engineering Department in UTD’s Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, said the three-year study, which will be funded by a $620,000 grant from the New Energy and Industrial Development Corporation (NEDO) in Japan, could result in the development of safety devices that anticipate a driver’s needs and would adjust and respond to various situations a driver might face while on the road, such as heavy traffic or fatigue. Once created, the technologies could be installed in automobiles throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.

Hansen will share the research monies with professors from Nagoya University in Japan and Sabanci University in Turkey. NEDO is Japan’s largest public research and development organization for promoting advanced industrial, environmental, new-energy and energy-conservation technologies.

Hansen, an expert in voice recognition, said that, among other things, he and the other investigators will study speech processing and recognition for in-vehicle navigation systems that involve the hands-free retrieval of information such as driving directions via a wireless connection and dialog interaction.

Other areas they plan to explore include tools that would “sense” a driver’s surroundings and make adjustments accordingly. For example, in a high-stress situation like heavy, erratic traffic, the technology might disallow incoming cell phone calls until the driver was clear of that environment.

Another anticipatory tool Hansen and his colleagues plan to study could monitor a driver’s fatigue level by processing images of the driver’s eyes. If tiredness was detected, the vehicle could make a “suggestion” to pull over, sound alarms or adjust radio volume to alert the driver.

According to Hansen, the developments could be useful to the insurance industry and to highway system authorities as well as to motorists.

“In-vehicle technologies could help insurance companies better protect their customers and their bottom line, and it could also help highway authorities better develop and manage road systems throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia,” Hansen said. “How drivers perform tasks while on the road impacts everyone, and universal systems are needed to make vehicles more robust and interactive and less passive.”

Hansen expects the studies to be completed sometime in 2008.

Hansen received his Ph.D. from the Georgia Institute of Technology. A distinguished lecturer of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), he served as the technical advisor to the U.S. delegate for North Atlantic Treaty Organization in speech systems and has worked with industry and U.S. government agencies in speech science and language technology. He has published extensively, particularly in the field of speech processing, and is co-author of a textbook on the subject. Prior to joining UTD this year, Hansen held joint appointments as a professor and chair in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at The University of Colorado, Boulder.

About UTD

The University of Texas at Dallas, located at the convergence of Richardson, Plano and Dallas in the heart of the complex of major multinational technology corporations known as the Telecom Corridor®, enrolls nearly 14,500 students. The school’s freshman class traditionally stands at the forefront of Texas state universities in terms of average SAT scores. The university offers a broad assortment of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs. For additional information about UTD, please visit the university’s website at www.utdallas.edu.