By Kelsey Mays on June 26, 2012
With federal regulators proposing new guidelines to curb driver distraction from dashboard displays and in-vehicle entertainment systems, Ford is developing its "Do Not Disturb" feature to someday intervene on its own. The automaker announced today that it will combine vehicle and road-condition sensors with biometric data like breathing and pulse rates to intuit driver stress levels and minimize distractions when necessary.
How does it work? Cameras and radar would combine with accelerator, brake and steering sensors to indicate outside conditions like heavy traffic or merging into a lane of fast-moving cars. In a demanding situation, the car would apply Sync's DND feature until the demands eased.
It sounds like a worthwhile development to us, and you’ll doubtless be able to disable the system if it gets too nanny-ish. A new survey by Harris Interactive shows some 84% of new-car buyers are distracted behind the wheel at least once a month, and talking on the phone poses an additional — if manageable — risk that talking to a passenger does not. Your passenger can see when a situation that demands total attention arises; the guy on the other end of the phone call cannot.
Where do biometrics figure in? Sensors in the seat, steering wheel and seat belt would measure heart rate, breathing and body temperature to assess higher stress levels and then filter out distractions or increase the warning distances for forward collision alerts.
This new feature comes on the heels of Ford’s Traffic Jam Assist, which can help maintain steering direction and speed with the flow of traffic. There's no production timetable for either system yet; Ford says the DND system is "still in research." We'll let you know as we find out more.
Senior Consumer Affairs Editor Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price. Email Kelsey