At one time or another just about everyone has been on one side or the other when it comes to road rage. You've either ticked someone off by veering into their lane or experienced some lever of outrage over being cut off yourself.
Either way, the stakes are high when drivers lose their cool, and subsequently their concentration, on the road and attempt to take out those frustrations behind the wheel.
A team of European car researchers are working on an in-car infrared camera system that tracks your facial expressions while you're behind the wheel and picks up that quick expression change from joyful to vengeful that occurs when road rage sets in. Developers explain that the same infrared camera tech can be used to detect when a driver is also falling asleep behind the wheel by precisely measuring the percentage of eyelid closure and when sending out a warning to jar the driver back before falling asleep.
The system, that includes the camera and software algorithms that do the actual facial and emotion detecting, is being developed by EPFL's Signal Processing 5 Laboratory (LTS5) in association with PSA Peugeot Citroen. The camera is programmed to track what the researchers deemed to be the seven most universal emotions that our faces show - fear, anger, joy, sadness, disgust, surprise and suspicion. The algorithms pick up what are considered to be the very specific facial muscle movements of these common emotions.
While the system is currently in the prototype stage, LTS5 is hoping that, at some point, a full production version might even be able to distraction and, perhaps, even read the driver's lips which may then steer it in the direction of future in-car voice recognition systems. There are many directions this technology could take from this stage and the best news of all is that all of them are ultimately about increased driving safety.
It is estimated that road rage or aggressive driving is a factor in 56% of fatal crashes in the U.S. according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Perhaps it's time in-car technology such as this becomes standard issue before these numbers continue to rise.