Bruce Mehler Presents at 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety

by Adam Felts

AgeLab Research Scientist Bruce Mehler attended the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety as an invited delegate February 19-20 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Cohosted by the Government of Sweden and the World Health Organization, the Ministerial Conference was organized as an opportunity for delegates to share successes and lessons from implementation of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020, chart future strategic directions for global road safety, and define ways to accelerate action on proven strategies.

As part of a pre-conference workshop, Mehler gave an invited talk as part of the Panel “Emerging Automotive Technologies – How Our Life will Change.” His presentation, “Is Supportive Driver Monitoring Needed to Maximize Trust, Use, and the Safety-Benefits of Collaborative Automation?” drew upon more than 15 years of AgeLab research spanning two MIT lead multi-partner consortia (AHEAD & AVT), several multi-year research projects sponsored by industrial partners, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Santos Family Foundation, and the United States Department of Transportation through the New England University Transportation Center at MIT.

A key argument of the presentation is that adding automated features alone will not necessarily solve current safety challenges on our roads. Many of the advanced features being introduced in production vehicles today and planned for introduction over the next decade still expect the “driver” to play a role – either in active collaborative control of the vehicle, monitoring of the technology in case it fails to detect critical events, or being ready to take over control if the vehicle senses it has encountered a limitation and needs help.

The expectation that humans can sustain the necessary attention to fill these roles may not be realistic. Ironically, this is particularly the case as technology becomes more reliable and the human has to step in less and less frequently. Mehler argues that just as automation needs human back-up, automation should back up the human to help them manage attention as needed. He suggests that active monitoring of driver attention may be the solution / cost for the “right” to operate a vehicle.

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About the Author

Photo of Adam Felts
Adam Felts

Adam Felts is a researcher and writer at the MIT AgeLab. Currently he is involved in research on the experiences of family caregivers and the future of financial advice. He also manages the AgeLab blog and newsletter. He received his Master's in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University in 2014 and his Master's of Theological Studies from Boston University in 2019.

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