, Former Senior Attorney, Law School
Based on statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2003), motor vehicle deaths are the leading cause of teenage fatalities. A possible approach to mitigate the incidence of teenage driver crashes and fatalities is through the use of in-vehicle technology.
The design and development of a first-generation prototype Teen Driver Support System (TDSS) to explore the feasibility and opportunities of such technology has been completed. The TDSS system includes technology designed to address several primary contributing factors associated with the majority of teen fatal crashes: speeding, seatbelt use, driver inexperience, and alcohol use. This has been implemented using a combination of what researchers call forcing, feedback, and/or reporting functions.
Forcing functions take the form of ignition interlocks to enforce seat belt compliance and sober driving. A feedback function provides real-time tutoring and warnings about illegal or unsafe speeds through auditory warnings. A reporting function records vehicle information for parents to review and supervise (and enforce) teen driver performance. A speed feedback and reporting component is used for driver compliance with safe travel speeds. The system correlates the location (using GPS) of the vehicle to a digital road map and the road's corresponding speed limit. A weather-based speed element incorporates current weather information that is used to warn a driver if the vehicle's speed is too high for current weather conditions. Similarly, speed warnings specific to curves are included to warn if speed is excessive for the prevailing geometry.
With the prototype TDSS, the researchers developed a method of integrating a seat belt interlock that requires the driver's seat belt to be engaged before the vehicle will start. Seat belt use is continuously monitored during each trip, and lack of seat belt use is recorded for later review. An additional interlock for alcohol is reserved for teen drivers with preexisting alcohol-related convictions. Since alcohol interlock systems are commercially available, they can be demonstrated as an optional component of the TDSS.
In anticipation of potential future applications, such as the enforcement of certain graduated driver licensing (GDL) requirements, the system includes a biometric fingerprint component, which uses a fingerprint sensor to identify the driver and parent so that the system can log the number of training hours spent behind the wheel.